Gov’t targets US$1b annually from handicrafts sales

The Ministry of Trade and Industry and the Ghana Export Promotion Authority (GEPA) are to promote locally-made handicrafts as a major export commodity on the international market.

The collaboration, which is expected to generate an estimated US$1billion a year, forms part of a broader strategy of promoting made-in-Ghana products globally.

Products classified under the handicraft category include: basket-ware, ceramic products, traditional musical instruments, hides and skins, batik/tie and dye, statuettes, beads, pottery, leatherwork, paintings, drawings and other forms of art and craft.

Data from the GEPA has shown that non-traditional export earnings from the handicraft sector grew by 23 percent in 2015; from US$3.47million in 2014 to US$4.27million – a far cry from what other economies earn from the sector.

Despite these figures, the sector’s potential as a major source of foreign exchange – according to the Craft Dealers Association of Ghana – is still untapped.

Mr. Carlos Ahenkorah, a Deputy Minister of Trade and Industry said: “The ministry is collaborating with GEPA to develop a comprehensive electronic portal that will position Ghanaian handicrafts products to be seen anywhere in the world – the biggest e-portal selling made-in-Ghana products. We want to create a sector where buyers can sit anywhere in the world to purchase made-in- Ghana items. We are going to promote made-in-Ghana goods aggressively”.

He added: “We want to develop a culture wherein a buyer can sit in his country, buy a product and get it shipped to him”.

Commenting on the dwindling handicrafts industry, Mr.  Ahenkorah said: “No one will allow the sector to die. We intend making arrangements to open the industry to worldwide patronage and sustainable production”.

Alhaji Tanko, Chairperson of the Craft Dealers Association of Ghana, told the B&FT that though various measures are in place to support the sector, the processes for accessing that support are cumbersome.

“I don’t dispute the fact there is support in place; but it is better you don’t even access that support because it will take you years, and you won’t even get the full complement of what you want. By the time you even get the support, it is no longer relevant because market conditions would have changed.”

He added: “If on our own we generating over US$4million, then you can imagine what will happen if government gives us a little support. We are convinced that if government can come to our aid, remove all these bureaucratic bottlenecks, it will help us improve our earnings and ultimately contribute to development of the country – but in the absence of that, we will just be marking time”.

To support the sector’s development, Mr. Tanko said government must create a fund purposely for handicraft production, just as it has done for the creative arts sector.

This, when done, he added, will see the sector’s contribution to the economy more than double.

Consumers taste and preference for imported alternatives and the high cost of raw materials are also some of the major challenges facing the sector.

“The profit that we are supposed to earn is being taken away by other expenses. For instance, government must soften it taxes on the export of handicrafts, because this sector can be a very strategic industry for the country. We understand that countries develop from the taxes that the individuals pay, but government has to soften its taxes to grow the sector first,” Alhaji Tanko appealed.

“As a country, we need to give more support to the sector to create more jobs and generate revenue,” Mr. Alhaji Tanko said

The global handicraft sector has an industry-value of about US$100billion. Yet, the country has not positioned itself well enough to tap into this huge market.

The handicraft sector remains one of the highest-grossing non-traditional exports for many developing countries.

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) estimates that globally the handicraft industry has a market value of US$100 billion.

The industry plays a dominant role in the economic development of rural masses by providing seasonal employment, especially during the off-farming season.

Crafts and small businesses, for instance, employ more than 66 percent of Europe’s workforce — around 98 million people.

In the UK alone, craft skills contribute £3.4billion to the economy, and the country’s Crafts Council estimates that there are around 23,000 micro-businesses are in the crafts sector.

Canada also exports about US$100million worth of crafts, and the sector employs about 22,597 persons in the various establishments.

In the United States, the art and craft industry accounts for about US$13.8billion and employs more than 127,000 people.

In the East African country of Kenya, woodcarving plays a very important role in the economy – contributing an estimated US$10million per year, of which a considerable part is export earnings.

The handicraft sector also accounts for 19 percent of Morocco’s GDP, earning the country more than US$70million.

Source: Ekow Essabra-Mensah/Ghana