• Blog

Responsible Souvenir Shopping in Southern Africa

Posted by Out & About Africa on Wed January 17, 2024 in Travel Advice.

Southern Africa is a popular destination for tourists from around the globe. The beautiful landscapes and vibrant cultures have undeniable appeal, so it’s only natural for one to want a keepsake and perhaps some gifts for friends and family. It is very important to make responsible purchasing choices when picking up these mementos.

Buying arts and crafts from the locals is encouraged, provided a few rules are followed. Avoid purchasing goods being sold by children. Children selling goods on their own are often responsible for making or finding the goods as well as selling them. Rarely however do they see any of the profits. It is exploitative. Do not buy from children. It  perpetuates and normalizes child labour and is unnecessary as it is not difficult to find goods of the same nature being sold by an adult.

One should also try to steer away from unsustainable novelties such as rhino horn, elephant ivory and shark teeth. The white rhino is near threatened and the black rhino is critically endangered. Southern Africa is home to many a skilled craftsman, be it working with wires or wood carving. A gemstone or intricately carved pendant would make a much more thoughtful gift than a tooth on a necklace. It would also represent the beauty and values in Southern Africa far better, as you wouldn’t be taking anything away from the beauty of the country by supporting poaching and other unsustainable practices.

Examples of sustainable traditional souvenirs to buy in South Africa include but are not limited to: Xhosa Shweshwe fabric (traditionally worn by Xhosa women; can be found as bags, cushion covers, clothes and sheets of fabric), Rooibos Tea, Homemade baskets and beadwork crafts, Amarula liqueur and Ardmore ceramic art. Gift shops are extremely common in southern Africa making these goods easy to come by, as well as most being readily available on street corners or at local markets being sold by local vendors.