Accra's Handicraft Market
The Centre for National Arts and Culture, popularly known as Arts Centre, is located next to the Kwame Nkrumah Musoleum, off the High Street in Accra. The center became very popular in the 80's for its leisure and entertainment programmes through its "Anansekrom", which used to be held there on weekends.
Today, the reason for most of the hundreds of people who visit the place everyday is different. They go there to buy or sell in the arts and craft market, located within the premises of the Centre for National Arts and Culture. It is the biggest market for handicraft products in the country.
All kinds of handicrafts imaginable may be found in this market. The items range from wood carvings, traditional musical instruments, cane and raffia products, leather ware, gold, silver and bronze jewelry, beads, clay products, antiques, paintings to ivory products, and many more. These items are brought to the markets from various parts of the country and also from other countries within the West African sub-region including, Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger, Cote d'Ivoire, Togo, Senegal and Nigeria.
The arts and craft market provides employment opportunities for many people. Skills have been developed in carving, painting, designing, metal works to service the market.
The buyers are made up of those purchasing a few items to customers who place orders for large quantities of various products. A lot of buyers are tourists and other foreigners visiting Ghana. The market is in fact one of the most important tourist attraction sites in the City of Accra and in Ghana. For this reason, some important international personalities and delegations that visit the country for official assignments or attend conferences and seminars are taken to the market to see and perhaps buy some of the crafts on display. These customers spend hundreds of thousands of cedis including foreign exchange at the place.
The Greater Accra Handicraft Dealers Association was formed in 1994 to bring all the stakeholders in the industry together in order to address some specific issues concerning their business. The Regional Secretary, Mr. Kofi Opare-Ntow, in an interview with ADM last week said the objectives of the association is to present a common front in exploring business opportunities and assistance for members. The association also seeks to ensure the welfare of the members and to ensure that the interests of all customers are served and protected at all times.
The association, Mr. Opare-Ntow said has established very good relations with the authorities including the Accra Metropolitan Assembly (AMA) and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). By this relationship, the association collects revenue from the members in the market on behalf authorities under a special arrangement.
Because the craft market is very old and there's been no investment in infrastructure, the structures housing the exhibits are very dilapidated. Mr. Opare-Ntow said they are currently holding talks with AMA to collaborate and renovate the place to meet international standards. It is expected the safety and comfort of visitors would be better guaranteed when the rehabilitation and expansion takes place. The multi million dollar project would include the construction of market stalls, workshops, storerooms, restaurants, communication centers, show rooms and modern places of convenience.
Visitors at the market told ADM that the market is very popular in Europe and America because of the variety and quality of the handicrafts available. Some of them said the items that they purchase are sent home as gifts for their loved ones and relations while others explained that they buy and resell in America and Europe.
Meanwhile, AMA is planning to relocate all handicraft producers strewn around the city to East Legon. A plan that is meeting with strong resistance from the residents.