THE BIG QUESTION: The African Print Revolution…Are We Heading For Disaster?

I am not an expert when it comes to Economics but I still remember my basic ‘Demand & Supply’ from Adisadel College where I studied Economics as one of my elective subjects…Oh and let me throw in this, I had an ‘A’ in Economics during my finals (SSCE).

I know we have all advocated for Africans to find faith, prestige, glamour and respect in our own things, especially African prints.

I am one of the few who used to find it absurd to see International celebrities like Beyonce and Alicia Keys rocking African prints with pride, whiles back home, our local celebrities were not even going near it. Instead they were wearing ‘fake’ foreign brands or lie as to what foreign brand they were wearing so that they can feel important and expensive.

The year 2012 has seen astronomical increase in the numbers of African print products being produced. We have seen most of our celebrities embracing African prints more than it has ever been done.

The ordinary African seems to have also found some sort of belongingness in these prints, wearing them for all manner of occasions.

The increase in demand and acceptance of African prints as extremely fashionable has led to everyone within the fashion industry going into the manufacturing African prints products.

From what I am hearing, some of the African print products on the markets are being made in CHINA with fake but African look-alike prints.  Some of today’s African print product makers are said to be flying to China to cheaply get these products ranging from bags to shoes made in China.

From where I sit, it seems we are heading towards a disaster.  It seems we can never get things right.

Soon, our markets will be full of African prints products, including pens and pencils made out of African prints…Supply will excessively exceed demand and then, all that we advocated for and welcomed will loose its price and prestige/value.

Who would want to wear an African print cheaply manufactured in China?

Apart from the China made setback,  the many people hastily jumping into the African prints market should know that,  when ‘Supply’ exceeds ‘Demand’, price falls…In this case, not only will price fall, value, acceptance and the prestige we have attached to these prints will all vanish…

Have you also spotted the excessive African prints trend? Can’t we just be moderate with things to ensure longevity, prestige and sustainability?

The last time I saw that Chinese guy selling African print clutches and bags in East London was when I said to myself; the disaster is here…

Chris-Vincent Agyapong Febiri, Editor

Chris-Vincent Agyapong Febiri is the Founding Editor of GhanaCelebrities.Com , a Film Critic and a Human Rights Advocate; holds a masters degree in International Human Rights Law (LL.M), holds a degree in Law (LL.B), and he’s currently at Nottingham Law School, studying for his Legal Practice Course (with a second masters degree in Law) to practise as a UK Solicitor--he's a Professional Truth Sayer. He is also the author of the popular eBook “Success is a Right, Not A Privilege.” Contact:

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Yaa says:

I have thought about this many many times, and I am glad that the topic is finally out here for discussion. All these productions being made by African prints are mostly fake. I have known that from the very beginning. Our African print for our usual kaba and slit have had some fake ones too. It is so sad that people would rather think of quantity and cheap labor than settle for quality with reasonable labor. As for me, I will not buy these products because I know they are not quality. I work hard for my money, so I will spend it wisely. 

mzafrique says:

I don’t think African print would lose its value even if it’s made in China. Almost all the things we wear and use on a daily basis are made in China anyway. I also don’t think it’s “absurd” that non Africans are starting to wear African print. It shows that they are embracing African culture. Besides, demand for African print in the US and Europe is not as high as it is in Africa. I live abroad and I’ve only seen a few celebrities rocking African print.

I do not think i said it is absurd that non-Africans are wearing it. You have to read the whole sentence please…I said it was THEN absurd to see non-African celebrities embrace it whiles African stars ignored it…

Fii says:

Good read, good article, valid points. But I’ll like to stoke some controversy here now. What exactly are we calling AFRICAN PRINTS? Are African prints African at all? Have they been African in the past? Did they originate from Africa at afterall? In Ghana, we all know about our proud Kente which we believe originated from Bonwire (never mind the fact that there are villages in Togo and Benin who also claim to be the originators of Kente. We are also proud of our Adinkra cloths.
However, when it comes to what is generally marketed widely as ‘African prints’, we tend to generally refer to wax prints. Cloths like those manufactured by GTP, Printex, Vlisco, ATL, etc. Now, are wax prints African? Well, you could say that, because Africa has the biggest market for these colourful cloths. Did they originate in Africa? NO! Are they manufactured in Africa? NO! (well, admitting the fact that there are a few wax printing companies in Africa, including Ghana’s GTP and Printex). The bulk of quality wax prints have ALWAYS been manufactured in HOLLAND by VLISCO, since centuries ago. Did they steal designs, styles and technology from Africa? NO! The was print originated in Bali Indonesia. The Dutch fell in-love with the patterns and technologies for using wax to print on cloths. Well, they didnt fall in love with the cloths to use it themselves, but they knew exactly what to do with it. Produce these cloths in large scale and market it at huge prices in Africa!! That worked! We ditched our Kente, Adinkra and Birisi for wax prints. VLISCO still exists and continues to manufacture wax prints in Holland. The most expensive and high quality wax prints are made in Holland. We have conveniently name cloths that originated in Indonesia, use Indonesian patterns and that are made by the Dutch as African prints! Well, that’s because we have the money to buy it and can spend up to four hundred Euros for six yards of made-in-Holland African prints (the irony).

Now, on to substantive issues. There is no reason why the Chinese cannot reap where the Dutch have reaped for ages. Their prints are even cheaper, and they try to match some traditional African patterns too. Those are afterall, also “African prints”

`madam social says:

@Fii, hmmm interesting…good points.

lola says:

@Fii, very good point there and Chris thank you for that article, it is in fact enlightening

Adjoa Nbaaso) says:

Nice article..I always have thought about this and believe the whole African fabric trend will fade away soon.Its getting too much and almost every young girl/boy call themselves a designer simply because they can cut and and make a bag or a purse out of these African print.

B.B says:

hahahahahahaa………..”the disaster is here”, thats funny!

I have a friend who goes to china with samples of the prints she wants, gets cloths produce and comes back home to sell them. And one thing she told me, “she mostly go for the low standard in that case, she sells them quite cheap in GH and makes her profit. Her reason for the low standard version, “people like cheaper things and dont mind if its imitation”  

With all those fake products going around, i agree with you Chris, ” the disaster is here”

I wonder what the Ghana Standards Board does about all these imported products, especially from China.

jsexy says:

These chinese people koraaa aaaahhh!!!!!!!! must they spoil everything 4 us??? well, if they leave the african print designers to continue with what they re doing then all will be well. But with the mention of chinafo… I also foresee CALAMITY!!!!!!

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