We talk about the African continent as the last growth border, economic crisis in Africa, or the economy on the ground because of the absence of a market for manufactured products. Of course, the ” big business ” of the North continues to draw on our raw materials, transforms and brings them back to us in other forms. But there are no outlets for the Dakar loincloth because it is made in Holland, the land of tulips. No customers for mango juice made in Cameroon because in Europe, we drink Joker and wine made from grapes. We all agree. Things has to change But in the meantime, among us Africans could we be a mega market for our own products at least?
Current status of local consumption in Africa
In Africa, competition between local and imported products is increasing. Today, 20% of our food is imported, representing, depending on the year, 30 to 50 billion dollars per year for Sub-Saharan Africa. Indeed, in recent years, dietary habits have undergone a drastic change with high consumption of imported products. In restaurants as well as in households, European dishes are often the most preferred. The made in Thailand, China, Indonesia, Japan, USA … the list is long, are fashionable and promoted. If you don’t have these habits, you are not in the “movement”. In the culinary habits, it is the hamburgers, the pizzas, the chawarmas, the hors d’oeuvres, the Champaign…which are invited in the dishes instead of the akounmè, the attiéké, the foufou, the ndole, the yassa, the mafé, the soya, the doro, the thiébou dieune, the palm wine, in short all the African dishes
The phenomenon is even more disgusting when politicians devote days to encourage local consumption. But the very next day, the opposite is done. The rice used in school canteens is actually imported, which is logically contrary to the values we advocate. And especially when we know that billions of CFA francs are injected into these programs for the benefit of learners, it is enough to question the policies in a context of promotion of local consumption.
Moreover, local consumption is not only about dietary habits. The way people dress in Africa has also evolved over time. A visit to the administrations on working days and you will realize the obvious. From the biggest decision maker to the smallest employee, almost everyone is in a suit. In churches for wedding ceremonies, it is the same attire. One in a well-dressed suit with tie and the other in a dress often white sewn from abroad. This benefits the European textile industry. Let’s invite ourselves now to dowry ceremonies. Here, it is the vlisco loincloths, the super Dutch that are in fashion while the kanvô of Benin, the rich bazins of Mali, Nigeria, Senegal, the bogolan of Mali … are there and waiting to be bought to bring added value to the continent. Apart from some countries that make the exception by adopting a typically african way of dressing, the “made in elsewhere” that prevails in almost all systems.
Have you also noticed in the living rooms the furniture imported from France yesterday and Dubai today rather than a wicker room woven by leather craftsmen in Africa? While African artisans are desperately seeking customers for their work. In short, the encouragement of local consumption is in all sectors. The world being in perpetual mutation, people’s behaviors also adapt to the movements. But our identity remains our own and it is up to us to value it despite the trends.
The quality-price-accessibility chorus of local products
The other thorn that hinders the African local consumption is a set of criteria that producers have difficulty in meeting. It is firstly the quality of the local products. Indeed, many consumers are still skeptical about the quality of products offered by local companies on the market. Hence the first level of reluctance. However, do we really know the quality of everything from abroad? Especially foodstuffs? Is it not the “only for dogs” that are sent to serve as food for students in our university canteens?
The second criterion is the price of local products. Complaints often concern the high cost of the products manufactured in or not far from our country. Perhaps this is justified by the fact that these are mostly companies that do not yet have a huge turnover. As a result, all charges are to be deducted from the products sold.
The accessibility of products also remains a criterion that entrepreneurs must take into account in customer satisfaction. Produce but in which quantity? Since production, processing is very little developed, actors often have difficulty in meeting market demands. Or, the products exist but the policy to make them available in every corner of the region is not yet there. This raises the problem of accessibility and availability of these products to consumers. This encourages them to turn to imports.
Who is to blame?
The responsibility for this situation lies at three levels: firstly, with the producers (farmers, breeders, fishermen, craftsmen, agropastoralists, etc.) who must strengthen their efforts to offer consumers local products that meet their needs and demands. They must also make an effort to reverse the discrediting of local products and promote their identity. Of course, these products must be accessible, of quality, and meet the needs of consumers.
The second level of responsibility concerns consumers; their role is essential. According to their choice, local consumption will become the central engine of economic, social and cultural development in Africa. Otherwise, if they favor imported products, they will drive the continent into debt, dependence and marginalization of the vast majority of economic actors. The choice they make will depend on objective needs that it is up to the producers to satisfy: price-quality-presentation of the products.
Finally, policies must support all the dynamics that make it possible to make local African consumption a central engine of the continent’s economic, social and cultural development.
What are the perspectives?
Africans should be the first ambassadors of products made in Africa by consuming them continuously and by making them fashionable. First at their table, then on their body and everything else. Not to mention that sometimes it even comes down to the African mentality being formatted. They are most of the time in the logic of “everything that comes from the outside is better”.
However, in opposition to what is believed, there are many inexpensive products made in Africa and of good quality that should at least interest local consumers. That would boost the regional economy, SMEs and SMIs. And incidentally, the cost of the household basket would be reduced. The consumption of the made in Africa must be a patriotic movement, carried by all Africans. The made in Africa must be part of our daily habits. Since there is no market for our products in the northern countries, we must manage to consume them ourselves. This will boost the economy of our continent. It is also a problem of cultural identity and self-assertion that will be resolved. Especially when you are proud of your national or regional seal, this is the right method to convince others. This is a regional challenge and it is up to producers, consumers and policy makers to meet it.
English translation of ” Consommons local africain : la vaine bataille des temps modernes ? ”, Eliane Fatchina, by Salima ALAGBE