Popular consumer goods often travel on long, intricate paths before reaching their final destinations in Africa. By exploring the ways in which goods are taken, often smuggled, to market centres, or brought to consumers by petty traders, this panel sheds light on the mobilities of trade in Africa.
In this panel, we propose exploring the transcontinental, regional and local routes and paths on which popular consumer goods travel to African markets and consumers. Some of these goods are locally produced and packaged, others may be branded foodstuff and gadgets, cheap imitations and fake commodities from Asian countries, or illegal products and goods smuggled across borders. We intend to discuss the paths, as well as the related strategies, through which traders procure and move such goods over varying distances and bring them to urban centres. Some of the paths are straightforward, others stretch over long distances and take surprising deviations before the transported goods reach their (provisional) destinations, e.g. market places and stores. We are also interested in the ways in which markets form hubs for the arrival, redistribution and (visual and aural) advertisement of consumer goods and are characterized by a high density and mobility of traders, customers and (often identical) commodities. A further, necessary focus will be the widespread attempts of petty traders and street hawkers to bring their goods directly to (often passing) customers, i.e. their practices of creating and participating in a market where goods are constantly on the move. Besides inquiring into the entrepreneurial strategies of African traders in dynamic and mobile market contexts, we also look at the consumption practices and needs for new goods that people create in different places along trade routes and travel paths. We invite papers that discuss the topic from an ethnographic and/or historical perspective.