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Handicrafts sector gets boost

Recently, Coordination Committee for Development and Promotion of African Handicraft (Codepa) held the ninth conference of ministers in Bulawayo at which Small and Medium Enterprises minister Sithembiso Nyoni assumed the pan-African body’s chairmanship with her South African counterpart (a new member) being elected vice-chairperson for a one-year term.

By Admire Kudita

The ostensible purpose of the summit was to tackle the national, sub-regional and continental policies of development and promotion of handicrafts in Codepa member-states. Delegates from the 26-member organisation over the course of three days discussed topics and recommendations around matters such as social protection for handicraft artisans and families, creation of an information system on African crafts and extension of the small craft enterprise support programme of West Africa to other regions. Moreover, the continuation of dialogue among Codepa member-states to entrench the business of handicraft in their economies as a significant contributor to their economic growth was also one of the recommendations from delegates and experts at the conference.

“I am reliably informed that the global market value for handicraft is estimated to be at least US$100 billion with key markets being the United States, Germany, France, the United Kingdom, Spain, the Netherlands, Japan and Hong Kong. And yet we find out that the handicraft production is currently dominated by China and India, as well as other Asian countries. Their position is based largely on low-cost high volume and Western-designed goods. The question is: where is the African artistic expression in handicrafts competitiveness? Africa has the huge demographic advantage,” said the Speaker of the National Assembly Jacob Mudenda, who was the guest of honour at the conference.

IndependentXtra’s Admire Kudita (AK) held an interview with the Zimbabwe Applied Arts in Crafts Association president John Custom (jc), who was also at Codepa regarding the conference and the current situation in the country’s crafts sector. Below are the excerpts:

AK: What were your take home thoughts concerning the Codepa conference?

JC: Codepa was very relevant to Zimbabwe Applied Art in Crafts Association in that we made lots of business links for future art and culture exchange progammes with member-states. We were invited to 2018 Siao Burkina Faso, Africa’s biggest handicrafts festival.

AK: What are your thoughts on the assumption of Small Enterprises minister as Codepa president?

JC: It is a stitch in time that saves nine. As a sector that has been looked down upon for a long time, we will finally have relevance, visibility and hopefully a working budget to spearhead national programnmes.

AK: What is the way forward for the sub-sector?

JC: We need to create a “craft village” that caters for handicrafts under one roof, where we can find workshops, training, sales, demonstrations, entertainment and services under one roof. But for that, we are calling on relevant authorities to donate operating space and to partner the Zaaca in developing this venture as a national project. As a sector which is part of the tourism value-chain, we also need to mobilise our members throughout the country to make them feel included in national exhibitions.

AK: Let us talk about possible synergy with the Tourism ministry and sector . . . How do you propose to work with them?

JC: They can avail market opportunities, take some of our members with them when they go abroad as a way of marketing Zimbabwean cultural traditions.

AK: What does availing market opportunities entail in your view?

JC: Like engaging our members in discussions or dialogue pertainining to sustainanable development, giving technical assistance and providing space for exhibiting our crafts.

AK: How do you fit ZimTrade into the picture?

JC: ZimTrade can train us on ease of doing exports, provide events happening around the world for our participation and can link us with foreign trading partners.

AK: I also saw you interfacing with other delegates from the likes of Ghana at Codepa. Did anything come out of that?

JC: We are still engaged in discussion by way of follow-up.

According to research commissioned by Zimbabwe Applied Arts in Crafts Association entitled The Crafts and Applied Arts Sub-sector in Zimbabwe: Strategies and Policies to Grow the Sub-Sector, the handicrafts sector contributes to household incomes amounts ranging from US$500 to US$15 000 per annum depending on region. Masvingo is at the low end, while Harare is the higher of that income continuum.

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