Business News of Monday, 3 December 2018
Source: Della Russel Ocloo
Exporters of handicrafts and home décor products have been urged to create products that have unique selling point within the global market.
According to the Vice President of Ambiente Trade and Exhibition Limited, Ms Nicolette Barbara Naumann, international tourist buyer products often looked out for handicrafts and home décor products that have unique appeal and could be accepted within the global market.
“Exporters must, therefore, ensure that they identify what will be accepted in the international market because the Ambiente platform provides opportunity for creativity and diversity”, Ms Naumann stated.
The Ambiente Fair, organised by Messe Frankfurt Exhibitions Limited (Messe) which is the leading consumer trade show held annually in Frankfurt, Germany for the last 710 years provides a unique and diversified platform for exhibitors and exporters of handicrafts and home décor products to network.
As home to decor products include decorative pieces, home furnishing, wall mirrors, furniture, vases, decorative stickers, baskets, dining and living room products among other Ambiente attracts some 4,376 exhibitors from about 90 countries.
In 2018, some 133,582 visitors made up of new and returning clients from 168 countries visited the fair to make new business connections.
Addressing a cross-section of handicraft exporters and journalists in Accra last Thursday as part of the company’s African engagement series, Ms Naumann indicated that growth of the home décor market across the globe shows no signs of slowing down as many people are using their creativity to create wealth and job opportunities.
The event in partnership with the Ghana Export Promotion Authority (GEPA) as part of preparations towards the 2019 Ambiente Fair in Frankfurt, Germany was attended by representatives from the National Association of Handicraft Exporters (NAHE) and the Ghana Exim Bank.
Ms Naumann was of the view that the growth in the global construction industry often are a clear indication that handicrafts and home décor products have huge potentials, hence the need to ensure that products from Ghana have features that differentiate them form other brands.
“Presently, India has been our major partner owing to the competitiveness of their handicrafts and in line with our African investment strategy, Ghana, Benin, Kenya and South Africa are our priority countries where we want to not only help market your crafts but also provide opportunities for young people in the sector to make inroads with their crafts”, Ms Naumann stated.
She wondered why growth in Ghana’s handicraft sector had stunt in spite of the massive progress made in the past where Ghanaian exporters made huge inroads within the European markets.
Ms Naumann also wondered why Ghanaians were not patronising home-made handicrafts and décor products when a lot of construction projects were ongoing in the country and should automatically provide market for home furnishing as against imported brands.
“The array of economic development demands that people are able to consume what they produce locally as a way on increasing growth”, she stated.
Participants at the programme, however, were worried at how their designs which were often exhibited at the fair end up being allegedly duplicated by countries such as China and Vietnam, who often sold theirs at far lower prices within the European market.
That, they said had gone to affect their production and export orders owing to high production cost in Ghana which often went to put an added cost to products from Ghana.
They thus appealed to the GEPA to endeavour to create a product register for all hand-made décor products from Ghana so they can be patent as Ghana’s intellectual property to protect them.
The Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Delata Ghana, producers and exporters of handwoven baskets popularly known as “Bolga Baskets”, Mr Mawuli Akpenyo who has been participating in the fair since 1997 noted that although the Ambiente platform gave his company an opportunity to introduce the baskets woven using elephant grass, unstable electricity supply, he pointed out had led to a marginal increase in the company’s production costs.
“Many times, visitors at the fair would tell you they want baskets of Ghana quality at China price owing to the cheaper prices on offer by countries these countries who have replicated our designs using cheaper production means”, Mr Akpenyo lamented.
Similarly, funding challenges, he stressed were hindering progress, as producers and exporters are often unable to access bank loans since they are considered as high-risk businesses that are not worth investing in.
The acting Chief Executive Officer of the GEPA, Ms Afua Asabea Asare in her remarks pointed a stunt in the sector’s growth could be attributed to the lack of coordination among the various exporter associations.
According to her, majority of exporters lacked production capacity, yet were not willing to work as a team to break out into the bigger markets the Authority’s platforms offered them.
She stressed that whereas teamwork is key to foster growth, thus it is important that exporters appreciate the fact that trade show platforms require very unique products to be on display.
“I am fully aware that the sector serves as smelting point to show creative skills for which reason, government through the GEPA and its development partners have to provide capacity building platforms for you, but what has been the outcome of the training and retraining programmes you have benefitted from over the years? Ms Asare queried.
She added that considering the investments made over the years by successive governments, the stakeholders ought to be having discussions on progression and how skills could be passed on and not the usual talks about challenges facing people who have been in the sector for more than 30 years.
She also regretted that while some of the products have the desired quality, the finishing were often a challenge.
“We cannot just get up and pump money into helping you participate in these fairs which are a good exposure to link products and forge relationships when your product quality cannot be guaranteed”, Ms Asare suggested.
On patenting the designs of Ghanaian handicrafts as in the form of intellectual property, Ms Asare suggested that the government would not be able to do so since the designs were as a result of individual creativity.
She stressed that, copying of designs were not only limited to Ghana but has become a global phenomenon, thus, “it is advisable for the individual developers to take appropriate steps to protect their creativity”, Ms Asare counselled.
The General Manager in charge of Small and Medium Enterprise banking at the Ghana Exim Bank Mr John Buor indicated that the bank which previously operated as the Export and Agricultural Development Fund (EDAIF) had supported the development of capacity of exporters in the past.
However, repayment, he stressed often became a challenge to many of the producers as some end up not using the money for the purpose for which they were granted.
“Going into 2019 however, the sector is key to our strategic plan and I can assure that producers and exporters who present appropriate business plans would be assisted to scale up their trade”, Mr Buor assured.