The Private Sector Federation has for the first time organised a regional women arts and craft exhibition aimed at strengthening women in business networking, and creating jobs.
The three-day event that attracted 100 exhibitors from both Kenya and Rwanda, kicked off Thursday at Car Free Zone area downtown Kigali and will close on Sunday evening.
The exhibition is in line with the PSF’s move to promote women and youth sustainable trade, business partnerships, trade fairs and taking advantage of market opportunities for handicrafts products produced in East Africa.
The promotion of Arts and Crafts industry and empowering practitioners in the sector comes as government embarks on a campaign to promote locally made products in order to reduce the current trade imbalance.
“The idea is to strategise how best we can develop this sector by sharing experience and learning from our regional counterparts,” said Paulin Rugero, the Chairman of the PSF’s Chamber of Arts Crafts and Artisans.
There had been requests for the local and regional artists to have this kind of exhibition not only by selling their products but also exchanging business ideas, he said.
Traditional handcrafts, clothes, shoes, interior design products, and jewelry are among the products being showcased.
“We have a bigger regional market but sometimes its flooded by foreign products that’s why we need to compare notes on the best practices on how we manufacture products to outcompete the foreign products in the east African region,” said Jane Munyayo, Chairperson of Kenya Association of East African Women Entrepreneurs.
Generally women and youth dominate the arts and craft sector in East Africa.
Meanwhile, the public has been urged to recognise the crafts sector as a key economic sector in the region and offer required support so that it can maximise its potential. “We still have the problem of mindset whereby people think that our local products are not of high-quality and this is hindering the developing of this sector,” Deborah Mbabazi, a local exhibitor said in an interview.
Mbabazi owns Kwetu Africa, a local company producing handcraft products. She exports to USA and Europe.
She said there is a need for mindset shift in order to develop local industries.
According to UNESCO, the crafts sector is the second largest employer in the developing world behind agriculture. Most of those engaged in crafts are mainly women with little or no education.
The global crafts sector is valued at $34 billion per annum and 65 per cent of global crafts exports come from developing countries. East Africa is one of the most important crafts producing regions on the African continent.