Africa and the Coat Culture

Published on 8th April 2013

Wearing suit and tie is becoming synonymous with African leadership.The insatiable appetite of the African consumer for anything foreign has been the major cause of our under-development and economic collapse. After 50 years of our flag independence, African leaders still borrow money to buy more coats and suits every year, while they abandon the indigenous textile industries to collapse. Where is the African fashion?

Everywhere you go in Africa, the “coat” is there. In offices, schools, hospitals, banks, wedding ceremonies, on the streets, the coat is there. Even in the churches, the coat is prevalent from pulpit to pew. In mosques, the coat is gradually showing up. In parliament, in the office of the president, and most shamefully at our ‘Independence Day’ parades, the coat reigns supreme. The coat has highjacked our way of life, dressing and line of thought. 

Our chiefs were much known for their traditional style of dressing. Sadly today, the chiefs are fighting hard for the coat as well. Our traditional leaders no longer see the need to carry themselves about in our beautiful African outfits.

We continue to lose a huge percentage of our resource to foreign markets everyday due to our inferiority complex! Currently, our economy is still dominated by foreign goods and fashion. It is very rare to come across an African leader, business executive or graduate worker who doesn’t wear the coat on a daily basis. Yet, how many of these coat factories are located here in Africa? Everything is in the Western Europe or America.

The coat has invaded the church. It is very common to see the preacher wearing some long coat while on the podium. Modern preachers are cladded in ‘designer’ suits. To many Africans, this is the prescribed dress code for the preacher man. Many church goers are alarmed when an African pastor mounts a podium without his colonial coats. They believe every man/woman ordained to preach the gospel must do so in a suit. With this mindset, Pastor Mensah Otabil of the International Central Gospel Church (ICGC) was recently ridiculed for his ‘un-pastoral’ dress code. But what was Pastor Otabil’s crime?

For those who know the man of God who also doubles up as the chancellor for the Central University, Dr Mensah Otabil is one African preacher who never wears suits. Thus, some sections of the African public believe the pastor’s style of dressing is ‘un-pastoral.’ Very strange isn’t it?  I think we are still colonized! We are suffering from mental slavery.

Today if you don’t have a coat or you’re the type who doesn’t fancy the idea of wearing one, you may likely not get a job. Obviously, during interview periods, many employers look for those in a  suit and tie! Consequently, if anyone shows up at any interview on an African soil without a coat, he/she is most likely to be disqualified from the onset. What a shame! Seriously, the coat is failing Africa and I am sad to say that most of us are guilty (myself included).

Recently I was invited to be a speaker on one platform. However, I couldn’t believe they wouldn't allow me the platform to speak unless l wore some coat. This poor African mentality is gradually destroying our local textile industries. 

African leaders and the coat

At the top of any government organization here in Ghana and many places in Africa, one is sure to find some “big men” cladded in suit and tie, watching the gradual collapse of the said institution right under their noses. Today, under the supervision of “men in suit,” Ghana’s State Transport Corporation is now on a life support, perhaps, already dead. Ghana Airways (GA) collapsed many years ago in the hands of men in suit. Even the Ghana International Airlines which was meant to replace the former Ghana Airways has also collapsed under the management of men in suit. The State Fishing Corporation is currently a distant memory. Abosso Glass Factory and Bonsa Tyres drew their last breath - God knows when - and the catalogue is endless.  Many of our local textiles industries have long collapsed under the nose of ‘men in suit.’

In spite of this, we have men-in-suit who usually demonstrate on paper, the best way forward in the management of our local industries. Yet, when given the job, they fail miserably, except their failure to don the coat. Why can’t these men in suit manage to transfer such ideas into reality?

The threat posed by men in a suit is not only limited to Ghana. In fact, there are more men in suit in Nigeria than any other African country, despite the country’s rich cultural heritage. Yet, not a single one of these coats are locally made. I am not aware of any suit factory in Nigeria, Togo, Ivory Coast, Zambia, Kenya and others. So from where do Africans get all these big coats that have dominated every single working environment?

If African people are truly in love with the coat, at least we must begin to show our readiness to manufacture it here in Africa. By so doing, even if we were to lose our way of dressing, we could at least create jobs for our people and save ourselves from the burden of borrowing from the coat to pay for the coat. 

By Honourable Saka

The writer  [email protected] is a Pan-African analyst and the founder of the Project Pan-Africa (PPA), an organization that was established to unlock the minds of the African youth to take Africa’s destiny into their hands.

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