Rwandans have been urged to continue supporting handicraft makers and other local producers by buying locally-made goods.
While opening a women’s arts and crafts exhibition in Kigali on Wednesday, Patricia Muhongerwa, the City of Kigali vice-mayor for social affairs, said the fair seeks to promote women in the sector and also increase the demand of local products “because small-and-medium enterprise (SME) operators are the biggest job-creators in the country”.
“Handicraft businesses create employment opportunities for Rwandans and form an essential part of the micro-and-small enterprise sector,” Muhongerwa said.
She added that the handicraft industry has the potential to enhance the income of women and other Rwandans.
The expo, at the Car Free Zone in the city centre, is under the theme “Supporting women in crafts” and is part of the March 8 International Women’s Day activities. It was organised by Association of Handicrafts, the Private Sector Federation (PSF), and the City of Kigali and attracted makers of handicrafts, designers and artists, among others.
It started on March 7 and ends on Sunday, March 12.
Muhongerwa said the exhibition offers sector players an opportunity to showcase their products, and will enable policy-makers assess performance of the Made-in-Rwanda drive.
The chairman of the Chamber of Art and Craft at PSF, Paulin Rugero, said the federation will continue to provide all the necessary support to empower handicraft makers, especially women, as well as handicraft co-operatives.
“About 90 per cent in this sector are women; so we need to put in more efforts to support them,” she added.
Euphrasie Mukanyarwaya, from Gasabo District, urged Rwandans to continue buying Made-in-Rwanda products to support local producers and help them grow and become sustainable.
Isaac Gasake, the chairperson of Rwanda Association of Producers, Exporters and Sellers of Handcrafts (RAPESH), said the trade fair provides members an opportunity to interact and share information, especially on how to enter new markets and improve skills.
According to Gasake, lack of raw materials is one of the biggest challenges faced by handicraft makers.
“Rwanda doesn’t have industries that process hides and skins. So, many of the producers of shoes and leather products import the raw materials from Ethiopia. That’s why our products are expensive,” Gasake said.
Under the Community Processing Centres (CPCs) initiative government wants to support selected projects, including leather-making, to ensure availability of raw materials for different sectors.
Once the initiative is fully implemented, the challenge of raw materials for sectors like leather-making, among others, will be addressed.
Gasake also said there is need for continued campaigns to change attitude of Rwandans about local products to increase consumption and strengthen their market share.