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Business News Thu, 6 May 2010

Boost for handicraft sector

…As American firm offers life-line

The quest by government to reposition the handicraft sector as a major determinant of Ghana’s economic fortunes has received another booster as a major American handicraft importer is in to establish a long standing relationship with the industry.

The company, Cost Plus Incorporated, a big retail shop in California is in to offer training to Ghanaian artisans to understand and adapt to the ever changing issues with the global supply chain of the industry. The company which, until after 2007 was purchasing about half a million dollars worth of handicrafts from Ghana per visit believes that Ghanaian handicrafts are some of the best in the world, but what has been lacking is innovation and adaptability. “There is no reason Ghanaian and African artisans and manufacturers should not be as innovative as their Asian competitors in the industry,” Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Cost Plus, Barry J. Feld told the Financial Intelligence (FI) in an interview. He said the only reason the Asians seem to be overtaking the Africans in product innovation is that Africans are slow to adapt to the changing trends in the industry.

To deal with this problem, Mr. Feld believes there is the need for openness and receptivity since in some cases, just colouring of the products the right way gives products a competitive edge.

According to the CEO, the changing business trends in the world to today are such that many buyers would prefer less expensive products and so local artisans also need to change in order for their products to suit the changing trends. He said he and his company have returned to Africa after a period of absence because they want to study how to do the business from Africa to suit their customers.

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He said one of the emerging realities in the global market also is that people are beginning to realize that the best products come from countries outside China.

“People are looking for something other than mass-products,” Mr. Feld observed, adding that technology has enabled manufacturers to mass produce same hand-made products with the same look but less price, “but not hand-made”. “Africans put their hearts and soul into their work, but there is the need to adapt to the changing business modules in the world in order to suit current demand trends.

He said if local artisans are able to understand the global supply chain and adapt to its changing trends then their products would regain their market share on the global stage.

He said a look at style and other details are therefore going to be his company’s pre-occupation when they start teaching the artisans. The company deals among others in home furnishing, home décor and gift items, and has been importing products from Africa since 1959. It is also considering buying consumable products such as shea butter, nuts oil and specialty foods from Ghana Chief Executive Officer of the Ghana Export Promotion Council, Kwadwo Owusu Agyemang said the council is more interested in long lasting relationships than one off buyers.

He said Ghanaian products are attractive on the world stage but are being pirated. “Ghanaians would be happy if buyers come to the right source for the products, but untrained buyers do not know the difference. Dr. Owusu Agyemang said his outfit is working hard to help the handicraft industry regain its market share because it is an industry which does not import any raw material to produce. President of the National Association of Handicraft Exporters (NAHE) Nana Osei Opoku Ampoma said producers are happy when buyers explain to them the exact products, styles and designs they want.

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“Ghanaians’ competitive edge over the Asians is their un ique creativity, and if we add a little innovation the sky would be the limit. He said one major thing the Ghanaian industry needs is to be represented at all major exhibitions in the world, be cause that is where you meet buyers.

Robert Kofi Elis CEO of Efretete Africa Art Works, local agents for Cost Plus was happy that that his foreign counterparts have widen the scope of products they buy from Ghana. “They are now buying jewelry, textiles and textile accessories,” he stated.

Source: Financial Intelligence(Justice Lee Adoboe) also available on www.fighana.com

Source: Financial Intelligence