As the second stage of the first World Cup to be held on African soil approaches, there has been much discussion not only about the game on the field, but the potential exploitation off the field. Experts debate about whether or not there will be a spike in sex trafficking. Manufacturers of everything from World Cup mascots to soccer balls have been accused of exploiting workers. But there is one group of South Africans who may really benefit from the World Cup: Fair Trade artisans. Millions of tourists have been and continue to be pouring into South Africa to watch this year's games. And tourists buy stuff. Some of them will buy commercial sex or slave-made t-shirts, but a good deal more will be looking to take home a special souvenir of their World Cup experience. And for the Fair Trade artisans working in South Africa, this may mean a huge spike in business. According to some recent reports, South African artisans have been planning for the tournament for awhile, beefing up production for the past three to four months in preparation for an increase in demand for their goods.
Of course, the Fair Trade baskets, soccer balls, coffee, and other goods will be competing against mass-produced items, some of which may be cheaper. But artisans are hoping soccer fans look for quality and be willing to support Fair Trade ideals with their wallets. It's too soon to tell how well Fair Trade good are competing with their mass-produced neighbors. If they sell like hotcakes, the artisans are standing by, waiting to make more. And if they don't sell so well, look for Fair Trade stores in the U.S. to be well-stocked with South African Fair Trade goods in the coming months — good news for those of us unable to attend the games.
Despite concerns around human trafficking and exploitation before and during the World Cup, the games may prove to be great news for Fair Trade artisans. And they might bring Fair Trade onto the world stage in a more meaningful way than before, since South Africa is home to so many Fair Trade artisans. Because no matter who you're rooting for (go USA!), we can all stand up and cheer when freedom is the winner.