African markets are exciting, vibrant with color, noisy, and fun!
Return to Lesson Plan
African market places are primarily used for one to do their marketing and trading. The market place is the exact location where buyers and sellers meet. People visit the market for many reasons other than to buy and sell goods. They provide a place to buy needs and sell produce, meet a significant other, settle a legal dispute, catch the latest news, or for religious activities.
The market principle is the way that many buyers and sellers work together, bargaining, until an agreement is reached on the price. Supply and demand may create instability on any given item. At least one member of any basic group must sell a portion of the production (produce of work or land) in order for his family to be cared for.
Marketing and Trading
Marketing occurs when a producer takes some of his product to market to exchange for other goods. When an entrepreneur purchases and item with the intent of selling it in another market or in the same market at a later time, it is called trading. Most transactions in African markets involve plenty of "haggling." To haggle means "to dispute, especially about a price or the terms of a bargain."
Items at market vary upon location. Because the African economy is mainly agriculture, that is what is usually sold. Many items pass through these markets such as: local produce, craft products, livestock, cloth - everything that is needed to live and provide society with. Produce and products are sold at a rate of supply and demand. What is found in one market place would not necessarily be found in another.
The people of North Africa are skilled in pottery-making and carpet-weaving, so on roadsides they display what they have made for passers by to purchase. In Tangier locally produced oranges, and other fruits and vegetables, are for sale. Melons, peppers, and other exotic fruits and vegetables are sold at an outdoor market in Senegalese.
Measures and Weights
Weights and measures are more or less nonexistent, but in the last few decades - quart beer bottles, standard-size cigarette tin and four gallon kerosene tin, and an empty 30-30 shell casing have all been used as measures. There are also some nonstandard units of measurement.
In our society, money is used to pay fines and taxes. We also use it as a method to compare and contrast goods of different kinds, to facilitate exchange, and to store wealth. Our money is used for general purposes, and is considered "general purpose money." An example of general purpose money in some places in Africa is cowrie shells. Most African money is "special purpose money." An example is the metal "hoes" of the coast of Guinea and Liberia that were used mainly for bride wealth.
In many traditional market places, a shrine can be found which indicates that the market place was consecrated- a religious act. The purpose of the shrine is to maintain the peace in the market place.
All markets are policed by someone. These places in Africa are almost as important politically as socially. Special deputies (or policemen of the local government, special appointees, kinsmen of a chief, or special groups designated by the elders to carry out the task) maintain the market place and keep the peace. Committees of elders took this on as a civic duty to maintain the market place to keep their part of the world on the map. In some parts of Africa, the market administrators use quality control. Unsatisfactory goods, such as rotten meat, cannot be sold. Some authorities are paid a salary by the local government.
Atmosphere and Status
Market places are a great source of entertainment, especially in West Africa and Congo. Each market has its own type of fair or carnival atmosphere. Many parties occur in these settings: work parties, wedding parties, christening parties, and spur-of-the-moment parties. They all come to dance and sing and announce good news to a large crowd.
Prices of items sold at market vary according to the status of the individual. The richer the customer is, the more he is expected to pay - he would be embarrassed to do otherwise. Prices in other areas have been strictly under the control of the king's bureaucracy or of guilds of producers.
Return to Lesson Plan