Africa: Do you really want the Barter system back?


Following the beginning of civilisation and the abolishment of ‘Trade by Barter’ also known as ‘Barter Trade’ in 1956 in Nigeria, the People of Akpabuyo, a local government area in Cross River State still practice the culture of exchanging goods for goods and services for services after 63 years.

Trade By Barter (Barter Trade) according to economics is ‘is simply an act of trading goods and services between two or more people without the use of money. Trade by Barter is sometimes referred to as Barter System.

Barter is a form of trading in which goods are exchanged directly for other goods, or used as a medium of exchange, without the use of money.’
Before money became the means of exchange for goods and services, bartering is said to have thrived in Africa just before the partition of Africa that led to colonialism. Intriguingly, today trade by barter still thrives in Nigeria in 2019.

The practice is dated back as far as 6000 BC, and was introduced by Mesopotamia tribes. Bartering was later adopted by Phoenicians in the same people. The system was discontinued in the 21st century when the need for money arose. Meanwhile in this part of Nigeria, the custom was said to have been overhauled by money in 1956 after a long colonial rule along the costal region of Africa by the Europeans.

Funny enough, despite the change in time and the growth of civilisation, the practice still exists in Esuk Mba Community of Akpabuyo Local Government Area of Cross River State, where the villagers converge every Saturday in a market known as Esuk Mba market to exchange goods and services without the use of money.

George Odok Jnr, a Senior Correspondent, News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), known for his discovery journalism, who recently explored the market said on his social media that it is amazing to see that such practice still exist in Cross River State and in Nigeria.

Odok said, “It’s amazing to know that 63 years after, you can still carry your palm oil to this market in exchange for garri or yam.”
He further stated that apart from the unique culture that exist in this community, the place is famously known as a slave point where slaves were taken to a place known as ‘Point Of No Return’.

“It’s a unique culture that exist in this remote village without portable drinking water, no good schools, no hospital or a health post. The market lives in Cross River State. Years back, the market was a slave point where slaves were taken to the ‘Point of no Return’.

“While working on this community report, we were taken round the ‘Point of no Return’ by the community leaders. The ‘Point of no Return’ is a route in front of the creeks where the slaves were been transported by sea to other countries. It is called ‘Point of no Return’ because any slaves that ever got to that point never came back to their families.”
Currently, the settlement where the slaves were kept for a ten minutes rest after trekking for long distances still exists.

The market starts at 7.00a.m and ends at 12noon every Saturday. The Market also serves as a tourist site in the area.

According to NAN, Esuk Mba community’s Youth Leader, Mr. Asuquo Effiong, said the practice is still in existence because the market was handed over to them by their forefathers.

“We grew up to meet this market. We hold it so much in high esteem and we want to sustain it. We use it to remember our forefathers and to sustain our culture.

“As you can see, they are varieties of food items in this section for exchange. In this market, you can bring your palm oil and exchange it for garri, yam, fish or plantain as the case may be.

“The market is close to the river side and our people here are predominantly fishermen. The community is not comfortable with the size of this market; there have been no expansion of the market since inception.

“In addition, we don’t have any good school here, no potable water or health post. We need government intervention in this community,” Effiong said.

Some of the traders (women) who brought farm produces like yam, palm oil in exchange for Mud Flat Periwinkle (Mfi), said the practice has saved them cost for many many years, following the scarcity financial resources in the area.

By Frankie Ifop, Calabar

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