AS we strive to advance productivity with targeted qualitative and quantitative improvements, we should as well consider diversity.
It’s incumbent upon Rwandese of all walks of life to tune our energy in producing what is required to feed the un- tapped or under tapped markets in the country, the region and the global market as a whole.
The best example of a potential but underutilized market is the art and crafts industry. With increasing international demand for socio amenities for instance, the demand for the works of art and craft has won a potential market in Asia, the Americas, Argentina, Europe and Africa inclusive.
In Africa for instance, ceramics and pottery are the oldest trade commodities. The African Crafts industry is one of the sectors employing a major chunk of human population in various establishments.
The craft industry of Africa is contributing significantly to the respective countries’ national economic growth.
However, there is room for improvement
The industry would help in uplifting the social-economic status of the impoverished communities since it requires minimum startup capital, can accommodate unskilled, semi skilled and even skilled personnel.
The issue of skills gap as a stampede to production would thus be neutralized.
Rwanda is well known for its creativity and rich culture regarding art and craft designs. The popular “agaseke” made by Rwandans, has penetrated the US and other markets of recent.
However, there is need for diversification and direct market access from the Rwandan producers to the world market. Value addition should be central in this respect
There is no doubt on this market and all we need is to produce and add value to our products in line with what the market requires.
In Kenya for instance this occupies a prominent position by contributing an estimated income of over US$ 10 million per year, of which a considerable part is from export earnings.
A number of products could be produced from this industry to feed this market. One would for instance invest in producing stone curvatures, masks as its done in Benin, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Egypt, Ghana and Sudan, cultural items like milking pots, traditional utensils and the like should be produced with ease in Rwanda.
These are highly demanded especially in the western world.
The current efforts by the Ministry of Commerce of Rwanda to establish a craft industry secretariat to facilitate in the implementation of craft industry strategic plan must be applauded.
There should be efforts to add value to what we produce in this respect, reach out directly to the market, and produce enough.
This would bring a significant number of people in the workforce and taxable bracket, widening the tax base, narrowing the informal sector and so increasing domestic tax revenue collections.
This effort also compensates for the revenue losses as a result of the recent Common External Tariff of the customs union and would help improve our fiscal outlook and cushion the economy from injuries to our medium term growth targets.
Benon Talemwa is an economist in the Ministry of Finance