Anyone not following Jidenna’s travels through the Motherland on Instagram really needs to do so now! Our well-traveled Pan-African bae recently posted a video of himself at a market in Senegal haggling with a vendor over a hat. The 85 to Africa-rapper positioned the video as a tutorial on how to negotiate prices when you go to the market. In the video, we see him going back and forth with the vendor and bluffing as if he was going to walk away before the vendor caves and gives him the price he deems more fair.
Jidenna’s travel videos come at a really good time, especially since it’s the Year Of Return, a concept that has been trending all year. And honestly, we just need for Jidenna to get a travel show already!
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For the hundreds of thousands of you in the Diaspora who are returning to Africa in December, this is how you don’t get ripped off as a “Yankee”. The strategy is usually the same but the style and intensity of your voice will vary from country to country (Dakar markets are more calm than Lagos markets, so I’m far less agressive here than I usually am 😎).
Anyway, don’t be fooled by how cool Jidenna makes it look. The market experience in the Motherland is a serious part of the culture. It’s something that you will probably want to put on your to do list, no matter what country your visit, but there are unspoken rules you should follow, and haggling is one of them.
I have been to Ghana twice, as well as Togo, and the markets I experienced were sensory overload. I mean, people were selling literally some of anything and they have no qualms about getting all up in your face with the things they have to offer. However, while I did participate in haggling with vendors, I must admit, I was filled with anxiety, especially because you have to get really aggressive sometimes and I prefer to be laid back.
Ideally, I just preferred that they would set one fair price and let me be great, but nope. Haggling is what they do, and if you are a Yankee aka an outsider, best believe they are going to jack up the price 5-fold in some cases. I traveled solo during my first trip to Ghana, and my driver was nice enough to accompany me to the market. I had a moment where I was so overwhelmed—because people will be trying to sell me things while I was still in the middle of another transaction—that I was going to just make the purchase at whatever the price was and my driver said absolutely not! He said that I was about to pay way too much money and that the vendor was a crook. It was a $20 Kente cloth clutch that I had talked down from $40, so I thought that was good. I was okay with paying the $20 but my driver demanded that we leave because he didn’t like the price. We got that down to $15. I had something similar happen during my second trip to Ghana. My friend’s mother, a native Ghanaian, scolded me and the vendor. She told me that the price was way too high for a shirt that I wanted, and that I should never settle because they always try to get over on foreigners. She then told the vendor, in Twi (Ghanians speak English, but prefer their native languages, and if you can speak their native tongues then you will yield better results), that she was being ridiculous. It took that moment for the vendor to relent and give me a price that was slashed by at least a quarter. Every time I went to the market after that I made sure to have a local person with me. In Togo, my group was hosted by an influential businessman from the country, and he was the only one who spoke the language (In Togo it’s French as well as various native tongues, including Ewe, and Kabiyé, among over 40 more depending on region). He made sure that we got what we needed without the smoke. So, the more connections you have, the better.
That’s my advice to you if you ever find yourself in an African market! Go with a local, stand your ground, and don’t be afraid to walk away if you don’t like the price, which will probably be marked up by quadruple. Nine times out of 10, vendors won’t let you walk away without making a sale so they will meet you in the middle.
Now, go forth and get your Year of Return on! Also, would you watch a travel show where Jidenna explores Africa?