Counterfeit Fabric Hurts Textile Industry in Ghana

Photo courtesy of www.independent.co.uk and Chris Matthews.

Photo courtesy of www.independent.co.uk and Chris Matthews.

Nothing is more frustrating as when your work is copied. Even when you are just sitting down and banging out a paper for that 101 that you have to take as a senior because someone did not get their distribution credits out of the way freshman year, it is still frustrating if someone copies your paper. Now imagine you are a traditional textile worker, in a country with a long tradition of beautiful textiles and then all of a sudden the market starts to be flooded by brighter but poor quality cloth from a different country, with your traditional designs on it. You would be frustrated, since what was once a traditional way of making an income is being outsourced. It is not just your livelihood that is being outsourced, it is your heritage.

This is the situation in Ghana. Chinese manufacturers have flooded the market with lower quality counterfeit fabric. This fabric uses lower quality cotton from overseas and traditional designs that were stolen from local manufacturers. It often claims that it is Ghanaian and made in Ghana. Ghanaian wax printed cloth, which is representative in the western mind as 'traditional African dress fabric', is incredibly vibrant and beautiful. In the 1980s and 1990s the Chinese knock offs were easy to spot, however in the last decade the colors and the printing technology has advanced so now the Chinese knock offs are even brighter and more vibrant that cloth that is printed in Ghana. Even the logos and tags assuring authenticity are copied (Yeebo, 2015).

This is a huge problem for the local economy. While the Ghanaian textile industry in the 1990s employed 30,000 people, the industry now only employs 3,000 people (Mathews, 2015). The saving grace for the textile industry is the market for cloth intended for special occasions. Many people will commission special cloth for everything from funerals to casual wear. The ready-to-wear fabric, the 'prêt-à-porter' if you will, of Ghanaian cloth tends to be the more commonly counterfeited fabric. While the textile industry makes up a small portion of the GDP it is still a 150 million dollar industry (Yeebo, 2015).

Things are being done to counteract the counterfeiting. Last year a task force burned tens of thousands dollars worth of counterfeit cloth (Yeebo, 2015) . A locally owned company, GTP, has partnered with mPedigree. mPedigree is a Ghanaian tech company that hopes to help consumers distinguish between the local product and foreign imports. While locally owned companies can not hope to compete with the counterfeit fabrics in term of price, they hope to keep their textile traditions alive through speciality cloths, limited edition runs and educating the consumer on the difference between local products and the imports (Mathews, 2015).

-Aja Ewing

References:

Matthews, C. (2015, September 27). Ghana’s Textile Trade Unravels Due to Cheap Chinese Imports. Retrieved January 3, 2016, from http://www.independent.co.uk/news/business/news/ghana-s-textile-trade-unravels-due-to-cheap-chinese-imports-a6787761.html

Yeebo, Y. (2015, May 31). Chinese Counterfeits Leave Ghanaian Textiles Hanging by a Thread. Retrieved January 3, 2016, from http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Africa/2015/0531/Chinese-counterfeits-leave-Ghanaian-textiles-hanging-by-a-thread