TRADE BY BARTER
Our ancestors did not have money, but they traded across the vast continent of Africa, through Europe and as far away as China.
Goods from Africa traveled across thousands of miles throughout the world, even at a time when we did not use money in Africa.
Iya Oyo told me that on their farms, they didn’t use money: you gave a tuber of yam to somebody who gave you some tomatoes and pepper in return because you needed tomatoes and pepper and the other person wanted a tuber of yam.
What is even more fascinating was this: “When you have a lot of things what you don’t need, for example yams,” Iya Oyo said, “you place the tubers at the crossroads. People take the tubers of yam, and leave you something else that they have in excess, say salt, some handwoven textiles, beads, gold, etc. In the evening, you go to the crossroads where you left the yam tubers and collect the things that people leave you in replacement for the tubers of yam.”
I experienced the same thing when I was an undergraduate at the University of Ife in the early 70s.
It was a little different, yet it was the same principle.
At the porters’ lodge of the university, and also at various kiosks on the university campus, sellers displayed their goods. There were daily newspapers, weekly journals such Time Magazine and Newsweek Magazines, loaves of bread, milk, sardines, etc.
The sellers would write the price of the items on a scrap of paper next to the goods. If the price of a tin of milk was ten kobo, they would write the price there, and place the tins of milk where you could easily pick it and leave the money.
The price of each newspaper or journal was already written on these materials, and you picked them up and left the money in the containers provided by the sellers.
If you needed some change, you would leave the money in the seller’s money containers, and pick the appropriate change from the tin.
In the evenings, the vendors would go to the places they left the goods, and picked up the money left by the customers who they never met.
Nobody cheated or stole anything.
When I was an undergraduate at Ife, I remembered what Iya Oyo told me about the way they displayed goods at the crossroads, and people picked the goods, and left them something else in return.
Nowadays, things appear to have changed.
It seems sellers and buyers no longer trust each other to leave anything unattended.
The picture shows me at the town of Somanya, Ghana, where I visited a group of artists.
I am with the administrator of the artists, Rudy Nartey.