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Commercial Networks, Brand Creation and Intellectual Property
Every month tons of green tea travel from China to West Africa in a movement that largely thrives beyond the attention of Western observers. In this trade, Malian merchants assumed a central role. They travel to China, visit family gardens and the factories, which process and package the product. Together with their Chinese suppliers, they select the tea leaves and create their brand. On Bamako’s largest market, the Grand Marché, more than a hundred different tea brands are found, whose packages have colourfully, often eye-catching designs with brand-names such as Gazelle, Tombouctou, Arafat and Obama. This book explores the unique tea culture that celebrates with its brands the strength of desert animals, the fading glory of trading places, the excitement of social events and the accomplishments of admired politicians.

Abstract

Growing quantities of industrially manufactured commodities have become available on African markets in the course of the past two decades. They arrive from different countries, above all from China, and enable consumers more than ever before to choose between different packaged brand-name products. Consumers welcome this new mercantile situation but also experience growing uncertainty about the products’ nature, as brand names are frequently copied and their content manipulated. Consumers criticise this fact in their search for good quality but, facing limited budgets, nevertheless often acquire the more affordable choice. In their endeavour to make the multitude of products comprehensible, importers and consumers talk about them in terms of locally established regimes of value in which these new goods are integrated. Based on ethnographic research on trade networks in Cameroon since 2008, and complemented by findings from research in several other African and Asian countries, this contribution examines these local perspectives and discusses how consumers cope with the new challenges and how they understand manufactured commodities from the vantage point of local value hierarchies. It also highlights the active role of African traders in importing and distributing industrially manufactured products.

In: Destination Africa

Abstract

With the introduction of affordable brand-name products from Asian markets, the choices of African consumers have substantially increased in the past couple of decades. This increase in choices has provided not only opportunities for shopping but also upcoming uncertainties about the standard of these manufactured consumer goods as one and the same type of a product often appears in different qualities. This phenomenon is generally discussed in terms of original and fake. In this study, however, I intend to reach beyond this dichotomy, which is closely connected to the discourse about the benefits of intellectual property. For many Chinese producers as well as for African importers and traders, intellectual property law rather seems to be dispensable and does not help them make their businesses more sustainable. In this contribution I examine such merchandise in Cameroonian markets and its meanings in the daily lives of traders and consumers. I also follow some of the products on their commodity trail to China and present opinions and experiences of Cameroonian traders who import them from Asian markets. My findings show that the daily practice of traders is more complex and complicates distinctions between original and copy, as traders often order portfolios of products with different qualities. This practice opens up a different perspective on industrial production of manufactured products that are generally imagined to be all alike and generate trust through their brand-name. Such portfolios have emerged through the interaction of Chinese and African traders. They illustrate that not only large amounts of products are traded between African countries and China but also that a cultural transfer of business practices has taken place across this Afrasian commercial space.

In: Afrasian Transformations
Following the Tea Ritual from China to West Africa
Green tea, imported from China, occupies an important place in the daily lives of Malians. They spend so much time preparing and consuming the sugared beverage that it became the country’s national drink. To find out how Malians came to practice the tea ritual, this study follows the beverage from China to Mali on its historical trade routes halfway around the globe. It examines the circumstances of its introduction, the course of the tea ritual, the equipment to prepare and consume it, and the meanings that it assumed in the various places on its travel across geographical regions, political economies, cultural contexts, and religious affiliations.

Abstract

With the introduction of affordable brand-name products from Asian markets, the choices of African consumers have substantially increased in the past couple of decades. This increase in choices has provided not only opportunities for shopping but also upcoming uncertainties about the standard of these manufactured consumer goods as one and the same type of a product often appears in different qualities. This phenomenon is generally discussed in terms of original and fake. In this study, however, I intend to reach beyond this dichotomy, which is closely connected to the discourse about the benefits of intellectual property. For many Chinese producers as well as for African importers and traders, intellectual property law rather seems to be dispensable and does not help them make their businesses more sustainable. In this contribution I examine such merchandise in Cameroonian markets and its meanings in the daily lives of traders and consumers. I also follow some of the products on their commodity trail to China and present opinions and experiences of Cameroonian traders who import them from Asian markets. My findings show that the daily practice of traders is more complex and complicates distinctions between original and copy, as traders often order portfolios of products with different qualities. This practice opens up a different perspective on industrial production of manufactured products that are generally imagined to be all alike and generate trust through their brand-name. Such portfolios have emerged through the interaction of Chinese and African traders. They illustrate that not only large amounts of products are traded between African countries and China but also that a cultural transfer of business practices has taken place across this Afrasian commercial space.

In: Afrasian Transformations
In: African Agency in China’s Tea Trade
In: African Agency in China’s Tea Trade
In: African Agency in China’s Tea Trade
In: African Agency in China’s Tea Trade
In: African Agency in China’s Tea Trade