chapter  9
15 Pages

Women and Trade

ByCatherine Coquery-Vidrovitch

City women in western Africa had a long trading history in sharp social and ideological contrast to the rest of women on the continent. Among the many kinds of businesswomen, it can be cited at least two types, one encompassing women of the West African coast and the other the secluded Hausa women. Togolese women and Ghanaian or Yoruba matrons who wholesale cloth, Wolof women gold traders connected to the Mecca pilgrimage network, and women trading in contraband diamonds from Sierra Leone and Zaire. Igbo women, who were often newcomers to Lagos, stuck to the food trade. Foodstuffs were almost always directly purchased from producers. Central African societies tend to be sexist; from Kenya to Namibia one finds much the same pattern. One begins to think that women's timid and late entry into the world of paid work is the product of colonialism's legacy of misogyny and Victorian puritanism, hostile to women's emancipation in the city.