Trade Networks, State, and Fashion Wars in the Beninese “Wax Market"
Recent change in global trade has deeply affected West Africa markets. Between 2004-2008 import of Chinese produced wax batik and “fancy” textiles out-competed Dutch wax products. This changed the balance of power between the associations of wholesalers in Cotonou/Benin and reconfigured relations between female leaders of market associations, state authorities and the leadership of the Dutch Wax traders. The article examines the relationship between competing foreign companies and locally aligned trading networks. The author argues that the competition at the Beninese wax market is characterized by continuity and change. Global structures impact on and transform local markets, however, local actors also structure market conditions for the global economic partners. The ‘structuration’ process leads to segmentation of market associations, international companies and product lines. Moreover, it is crucial for the trade networks and their international partners to engage central state actors and even control the ‘gatekeepers’ in these institutions through their inclusion in the networks. The study contributes to a better understanding of the local political economy around the steep increasing import of Chinese textiles and the political and associational restructuring which result.