Ghana received the outstanding guest of honour country award at the 3rd International Handicraft Week in Grand Bassam, Cote d’ivoire (SIAB 2019).
The award was given to Ghana for being the best organised and for the impressive presentation at SIAB 2019, which saw 14 countries participating.
It was Ghana’s maiden appearance officially at SIAB and it had the highest number of about 40 companies mainly from the handicraft sector that participated under the auspices of the Ghana Export Promotion Authority (GEPA).
They showcased an array of products including, contemporary African home decor, costume dolls, nativity sets, fabric bags and shoes, beads and beaded items, woodcraft, leather footwear, textiles and shea butter products.
The Promoter of SIAB, Mr Cisse Ali, who spoke through an interpreter, said the objective of SIAB was to know one another, learn from one another and share experiences while taking the opportunity to improve on their products.
He said sponsorship had been the challenge and called on local authorities to get involved.
“Going forward, we will increase media and public education so we can attract a lot of people and grow handicraft to improve the livelihoods of artisans and contribute to economic development,” he said.
The Mayor of Grand Bassam, Mr Jean-Louis Moulot, said the trade relation had just began between Ghana and Grand Bassam in terms of craftsmanship, although Ghana is a strategic partner to Cote d’ivoire.
“It is a relationship that is beginning so we are hoping to learn from your experience since you have the expertise. The way you transform the raw material first and the way you organise to export. I think it’s a good lesson for Grand Bassam and Cote d’ivoire also,” he said.
The Ivorian city of Grand Bassam was the first capital of the country and had been declared a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) World Heritage site.
Two hundred companies from countries such as Burkina Faso, Mauritania, Madagascar,
Guinea, Mali and Niger participated in SIAB from August 1-7, 2019, which was on the theme, ‘Crafts and Tourism.’
Ghana's participation was on the theme, “Celebrating the Ghanaian Culture and Business Opportunities.”
The Director, Marketing and Promotion at the GEPA, Mrs Agnes Gifty Adjei-Sam, said the country’s presence at the fair marked the beginning of the collaboration to bridge the culture and business gap.
She said the GEPA had a mandate to develop made-in-Ghana products and so it organised many exporters to access the ECOWAS market, and at the same time about 20 exhibitors were in Zambia, while some were being prepared to access other international markets such as the New York big show and Birmingham creative craft show.
She said SIAB 2019 offered a preparation and product development opportunity for Ghana as she sought to increase earnings in the handicraft sector.
“The Year of Return, Ghana 2019, is important for the handicraft sector as diasporas return to their homeland through the craft industry. We will do more to be able to cash in for the handicraft,” she said.
Some exhibitors who were at such a fair for the first time said it was a great opportunity for them to explore and study the potential markets for their products.
The Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Giddins, manufacturer of hand-crafted footwear, Mr Gideon Dendzo, said his participation had been good and an eye opener.
“One has to study the market. I came here to look for potential distributors and retailers for my products. It would give me a better grounds in the other markets and also be very conversant with how goods and services move,” he stated.
Others suggested that organisers should take into consideration the time of the year, as the intermittent rains did worry them.
“This resulted in low turnout on the third day. A lot more publicity should also be done to direct traffic to the fair,” the CEO of D’mema Beads and Accessories, Ms Deborah Aidoo also mentioned.