Although export earnings from the Industrial Art and Craft sub-sector increased by 23.65% from US$10.411 million in 2017 to US$12.873 million in 2018, the handicraft contributed only US$27,319.
The low earnings from handicrafts, according to industry players, is due to a number of factors, key among which, are the lack of soft and accessible loans to expand and purchase modern tools.
Lack of a modern craft centre and equipment leading to poor finishing, lack research and development centres across the country, are among other factors preventing locally-made handicrafts from competing with products from Asia and South America.
“The fact of the matter is that the handicraft sector is going down,” said Erasmus Philip Ahorlu, Secretary of the National Association of Handicraft Exporters.
Even though the Ghana Export-Import Bank (GEXIM) and the Microfinance and Small Loans Centre (MASCLOC) are supposed to provide loans to businesses, like handicraft exporters, Mr. Cavers said their operations are influenced by politicians.
“GEXIM provides soft loans but you cannot access it. If you are not a politician, or if a politician does not recommend you, you will not get support,” he said, adding “I know what I am saying and I can defend it anywhere.”
Ideally, he said institutions like GEXIM and MASCLOC should be freed from political influence to enable them support the sector and other businesses looking to take advantage of the export market.
The Non-Traditional Export statistics released by the Ghana Export Promotion Authority last September shows that out of the US$12.873 million recorded from the export of Industrial Art and Craft of, ceramics, including tiles, contributed US$10.7 million.
He added, “If you look at the figures, you will realise that the art and craft sector, indeed, saw a 24 percent growth in export earnings but that 24 percent did not affect the masses; those who are in wood and bamboo craft, fashion accessories, basket making and all the other crafts.”
Elizabeth Ayamgba, a basket dealer based in Bolgatanga, the Upper East Regional capital, lamented that she is unable to expand her business because of lack of access to credit at reasonable rate.
“I have been in this business for so many years and I can tell you that there is a huge potential for Ghanaian baskets. However, we are unable to access loans to grow and export in large quantity. There are instances where you will get offers to supply baskets but you are unable to do so because of lack of capital,” she narrated.
Due to the lack of modern equipment and tools to enhance finishing, locally-produced handicraft products have become less attractive to those from Asia and South America.