Today in Africa, which encompasses 54 countries and thousands of languages, a wide variety of basket traditions coexists. While methods are time-honored and stable, materials can be new and changing. As natural resources become scarce, African basket makers adapt by incorporating modern materials into their work. In Senegal and The Gambia, for example, plastic strips from a mat factory or unraveled synthetic threads from imported flour, onion and rice bags bind rows of grass in coiled baskets. In the cities of South Africa, some people now make baskets with no natural fiber at all, creating fabulous multicolored platters from copper and plastic-coated telephone wire. Traditional forms such as gourd covers and lids for ceramic beer pots continue to be created, but they look very different adorned with brightly colored beads, wire, metal or synthetic fiber.
In South Africa, as in the American South, the most talented basket makers sell their works to collectors who prize them as art objects. Basketry cooperatives bring income to local communities and teach the ancient craft to young people and to rural women whose husbands work in distant cities.