With Fairtrade Fortnight upon us we wanted to present quite a few views on this topic and how it relates to Africa and its fashion and textiles industry. SO we asked our guest contributor Mitch Teberg, a Fairtrade researcher and consultant to write his thoughts for us about the position of Fairtrade for Africa. We are excited to read his article and encourage you to read along and share your thoughts too.
Then if you wish to add to your research and interests you can also read about the work of Fairtrade Africa here to really get engrossed in the Fairtrade initiatives that is happening on the continent. Happy reading,
(Please note the image source is fairtradeafrica.net and the views of this article belongs to Mitch Teberg as a guest contributor for Africa Fashion Guide)
The Future of Fair Trade in Africa
by Mitch Teberg
For decades Fairtrade has provided opportunities for disadvantaged communities in Africa through export to markets in Europe, North America, Japan, Australia and New Zealand. Thanks to the concerted efforts of numerous organizations, networks, advocates, supporters and volunteers raising awareness of Fairtrade with consumers, the vibrant colors and ethnic designs of African producers brought much needed foreign currency to marginalized communities and contributed to the development of local economies.
Admittedly, much of the awareness raising, social justice campaigns and retailing of Fairtrade has been focused in developed nations. As a result there is a dependence on northbound trade built into Fairtrade, and the weakness of this dependence came to the surface in the global recession of 2008/09. The slow economic recovery in the US and Japan, as well as the ongoing financial crisis in the European Union has hampered the growth of Fairtrade, particularly in the areas of African arts, crafts and textiles. By 2011, one lesson became painfully clear for Fairtrade producers in Africa and throughout the world: Don’t depend on exports alone!!!
In short, there is a need to diversify markets; more specifically, it is time to localize fair trade in Africa! To accomplish this, requires three key elements: expanding and integrating existing networks, incorporating the African youth into the continental Fairtrade movement, and producing products specifically for local markets.
Unite and expand African Fair Trade
Currently the Cooperation for Fair Trade in Africa (COFTA) has a membership of seven national networks and 70 producer groups in seventeen countries and there is much more potential for expanding this network. In Africa alone there are 293 Fairtrade International (FLO) certified producers in 28 Africa countries primarily producing flowers, coffee, tea, cocoa, fruits/vegetables and cotton. However, there is little if any collaboration amongst these two groups with the same objectives. Imagine the power of networking together to make Fairtrade not simply an export product, but to make Fairtrade a reality in local, national and regional markets of the African continent. Entering local markets in a developing nation is not only possible; it is being done in the Philippines, read Journey for Fair Trade: Franchising Fair Trade.
Target African Universities and Colleges
Outside of mass media promotions, the most effective and sustained local Fairtrade campaigns have been centered on university campuses and in local Fairtrade shops. The same process can occur in the Africa which has hundreds universities and colleges. Where local Fairtrade networks are most successful we find producer groups, advocates, support organizations and academics united in their efforts to localize Fairtrade in their communities. Fairtrade networks, advocates and support organizations share responsibility to provide opportunities for students to take direct action, and the formula is simple: to make Fair Trade a reality on campus is to make Fairtrade tangible.
- Support the creation of Fairtrade movements on African university and college campuses with explicit aim to both raise awareness on campus and make direct linkages between students and producer groups.
- Facilitate opportunities for field research to connect directly with artisans, weavers, farmers, and craftswomen and men, to learn their expertise, share their experiences and understand the difficulties they must overcome.
- Allow students an opportunity to understand Fairtrade from the perspective of producers and for producers to participate campus activities promoting and exhibiting Fairtrade.
To read more on this go to Journey for Fair Trade: Catalysts for Social Change
There is also the possibility of using more social media to connect with the growing number of University Fairtrade movements around the world. In Australia and New Zealand alone there are 25 campus movements networked together (www.fairlyeducated.com) which holds annual conferences, and facilitates exchanges and open dialogue. The same can be done in Africa. Social media not only provides the opportunity to make linkages with numerous Fairtrade campus movements around the world, but to reach out to concerned citizens, mobilize communities and connect with online resources. In short, social media offers an open forum for global collaboration, experience sharing, and international exchange.
Create a Unified Vision for Fair Trade in Africa
Imagine a continental network of local Fairtrade movements and producer groups supporting each other, exchanging ideas and promoting Fairtrade African textiles, coffees, teas, chocolate and daily use products in a continental Fairtrade retail chain and local markets! For Fairtrade to be sustainable, it needs to enter the markets of Africa and to do this takes a concerted effort to raise awareness of Fairtrade to the general public; to make Fairtrade principles a common understanding. Initiating this effort does not require externally funded multi-media advertising campaigns, but committed advocates and volunteers networking to initiate Fairtrade movements in their own communities. Concerned citizens, professionals and the youth are the foundation of Fairtrade movements around the world.
To localize Fairtrade requires a unified vision and a collective initiative. Working together with a common goal of localizing Fairtrade throughout Africa will lessen dependence on northbound trade, strengthen existing movements, initiate new ones and unite people across an entire continent. Imagine Universities campus movements in collaboration with producer groups forming an African Fairtrade retail chain supported by national and regional networks. Localizing Fairtrade in Africa is possible, all the elements exist and it only needs a vision to make it a reality: Localize Fair Trade in Africa.
Mitch Teberg, MA
Sustainable Development / Fair Trade
Researcher / Trainer / Consultant