About 15km south of Kumasi on the Beresese Road are the villages of Asuofia and Asamang. Both villages are famous for their glass beads. I visited with a very large group of American students, and found the experience to be rather traumatic.
Upon arrival the group of tourists was immediately surrounded by a crowd of children. At first of course, you think 'how cute.' And it's true the kids are adorable in that ragged third world way that most kids in Africa seem to be. But these kids had experienced the tour bus arrival many times before and knew exactly what to do. At first they're all smiles for the camera, but before you know it it's "give me a pen," "give me money," "give me a gift" surrounding you from all sides. Eventually the owner of the bead oven came to meet us and led us through the throng of children to a gated area, inside of which was the bead factory.
After a short, and not particularly informative lecture on how the beads are made (coke bottles are melted down, mixed with dye, and baked in an ancient looking oven), we were released back into the village to a home where the beads are sold. Of course no real directions are given to this place, so a lot of aimless wandering follows, accompanied by the unending chorus of "give me pen," with the more audacious youth grabbing our arms and walking with us as they begged. Disconcerting to say the least.
Eventually we found our way to the gated-in yard where women were selling the beads, strung onto a soft cotton rope. A wide variety of beads were available, and were not too expensive after bargaining. Many of the beads are very large and brightly colored. After purchasing a number of beads, my groups was ready to leave.
Outside the fence, the crowd of children had grown even larger, and enveloped us again as we made our way to the vehicle. In fact there were so many that it was difficult to get on the bus as they blocked the door.
While this certainly wasn't a dangerous experience, it was by no means pleasant, and left a bad taste in my mouth. The beads were very pretty, but similar ones can be purchased at the Saturday market in Agomanya (in the Eastern Region) without any of the fuss. Perhaps in a smaller group the children wouldn't beg as much, but I wouldn't recommend the experience to any but the most intrepid traveler.
On a similar note, the experience reminded me of why it is bad to ramble all over the world handing out trinkets to children. In many cases it isn't what they need, and it not only creates problems in these communities, but it also creates unreasonable expectations for future travelers to the region. I've always found it much more gratifying to give gifts to folks I've stayed with or befriended rather than handing out plastic nonsense like a lady Santa Claus.