ACCRA – Manufacturers of Ghana’s iconic fabrics have come under increasing pressure as counterfeits made in China undercut local production. COVID-19 and the resulting steep decline in sales has added more woes to this industry. Producers are hoping that measures aimed at stopping the counterfeits will turn things around.
Ghana has a rich history of textile production, making different fabrics from woven kente to brightly-colored batik to wax prints where designs carry meanings. Consumers will often buy new fabrics to mark occasions, like funerals.
However, counterfeits have severely impacted batik producer Esther Amate’s business. About 15 years ago, she started seeing counterfeit batik in Ghana — with lower prices — driven by consumer demand.
While she makes the batik fabric she sells in her store in Accra, she also sells counterfeit wax prints. But now, she says COVID-19 has underscored the importance of supporting local industries, so she has vowed to stop selling Chinese imports.
“When people started demanding what they wanted then I said ‘okay, I am a businesswoman so I have to go in that way too’, but now I want to stop. Now we need a lot of support so that we can stop and do our own thing because we can do very nice fabrics,” she said.
Wax print textile company GTP has designed and printed fabrics in Ghana since 1966. Their print designs are often stolen, printed in China and other Asian nations and then smuggled back into Ghana, severely undercutting the business.
It is also very hard to tell the real fabrics from the fakes, GTP’s Marketing Director Stephen Kofi Badu says.
“It’s highly, highly frustrating — very frustrating and sometimes it’s really worrying not just for us but also for the country because I can tell you the African print market is a very huge market but unfortunately for us, our government does not get the necessary revenues that it is supposed to get because of the huge amount of smuggling,” he said.
COVID-19 compounded these issues. During the recent lockdown in Ghana, sales dropped from about 1 million yards a month, to less than 100,000.
However, sales are slowly recovering and GTP remains hopeful. It even brought out new designs inspired by Ghana’s handling of the pandemic, with prints to represent the president’s addresses to the nation and to reflect lockdown measures.
But, Badu says he will not be surprised if these too are soon counterfeited.
GTP does have measures in place to protect its products. In 2015 it started working with Ghanaian company mPedigree, which uses technology to help buyers know what they purchase is authentic.
The fabrics have a scratch code on them which buyers text to a number to get confirmation the fabric is from GTP.
“The revolutionary aspect about the technology is how it arms not regulatory systems per se, or the government alone, but more importantly the consumers. It makes consumers the vanguards against counterfeits or spurious products in this case textiles,” said Eugene Kwaku Boadu, the director of corporate affairs at mPedigree.
For the past few years, Ghana’s government has been considering measures to regulate the industry and curb illegal imports, such as creating a stamp for fabrics produced in Ghana and a taskforce to look for counterfeit goods. GTP’s Badu hopes that legislation to enact these measures will be introduced next year.
Source: Voice of America