Strengthening the Capacity of the Mozambican Government in Developing Successful Strategies for Craft Sector Development


Mozambique’s craft sector is filled with potential; the artisans are imaginative and skillful, the land offers beautiful raw materials with which to work and the country is increasingly attracting more tourists. At present however, the sector has not maximized opportunities for capitalizing on cultural products and coordination at all levels is weak, to the detriment of the thousands of artisans striving to make a living and support their families. The MDG-F Joint Programme for Strengthening the Cultural and Creative Industries and Inclusive Policies in Mozambique is addressing this issue by looking at the challenges related to the ‘profit making’ side of culture. In the last couple of months, strategic activities which aim to improve the enabling environment that supports the cultural and creative industries have been taking place. Most recently UNESCO, one of six partner agencies on the Joint Programme, facilitated a workshop on ‘Market Access for Artisans’ and a professional exchange mission to South Africa to strengthen awareness of opportunities and strategies for growth of the craft sector in Mozambique.

The Market Access workshop which took place from 29 September to 5 October in Maputo was led by UNESCO consultant Colvin English from ByHand Consulting, a company specializing in issues related to the international handcraft industry. Participants included junior and senior representatives from various government ministries including the Ministry of Industry and Trade, Institute for the Promotion of Exports (IPEX), Institute for Small and Medium Enterprises (IPEME), Ministry of Culture, Ministry of Tourism, Ministry of Labor and select Municipal Councils from the locations where the Joint Programme operates: Maputo City, Inhambane and Nampula. Civil society was represented by CEDARTE, a Mozambican NGO which works to promote the sustainable development of the Mozambican craft sector. This provided a strong platform for cross level and inter-ministerial exchange and discussion. As Mr English explained, the workshop was a rare opportunity for all those gathered to work together “…as an industry, as a government and as citizens of a community to give artisans the tools to succeed” and was about establishing how the various ministries could do their part to strengthen opportunities for the craft sector.

The main impediments to the growth and development of the Mozambican craft sector were identified as unsustainable market access, limited production capacity, product design and quality issues, the informal nature of the sector and lack of a clearly defined strategy of support from the government’s side. For example, there is high demand in the United States for Mozambican products, especially African Blackwood or ‘Pau Preto’ as it is locally known, but the Mozambican craft industry is unable to meet these demands as it does not have the correct infrastructure to meet the needs of importers. The effects of the current economic situation have been felt in the craft sector in Mozambique, as in most other countries around the world, but according to Mr English there is a ‘silver lining’ in that people now more than ever crave hand crafted products that link to culture, history and a sense of identity. Consumers are increasingly willing to spend their money on higher value items with ‘more meaning’ than on cheaper, mass produced items and this is reflected in the fact that the Fair-trade and Green markets are performing well despite the recession. Maria da Graça de Natividade from the National Institute of Employment and Vocational Training stated that in terms of steps the government could take to strengthen Mozambique’s position in the global market, better coordination was needed in regards to import-export activities, and that the creation of a training curriculum for artisans which included components on design, product development and marketing would be beneficial. Jahamo Salé Calima, an Economist with IPEX, commented that the next key action to strengthen the market would be the construction of viable export value chains and the international promotion of national handcrafts.

From 18 to 22 October, the same group of participants who took part in the Maputo workshop went on a ‘Craft Sector Learning Mission’ to Mpumalanga and Johannesburg in South Africa. This UNESCO mission was organized and facilitated by The Africa Craft Trust (previously known as Aid to Artisans South Africa Trust) a non-profit organization working to strengthen urban and rural craft enterprises by providing training and market access services. The delegates began their journey on the Mpumalanga craft route to experience firsthand how tourism in small towns can act as a key economic driver, and explore the powerful interrelation between tourism and craft. Visits were made to tourist destinations, retail outlets and hotels that all use crafts to promote their businesses. The group went to Nkangala to meet with Ndebele crafters including world renowned Ndebele artist Esther Mahlangu whose house, which is decorated in the vivid traditional Ndebele style, attracts many visitors from far and wide. This enabled participants to think about how to maximize craft and tourist potential using culture and tradition, in order to generate local income.

In Johannesburg the delegates visited commercial craft wholesalers and retailers around the city, in order to gain a perspective on the varied market niches where handmade products can be placed and the highly competitive nature of the sector. They had the opportunity to listen to speakers such as Annabell Lebethe, Director of the National Arts Council in South Africa and Nana Ngoma from MappSeta, a government supported craft sector training programme, to gain an insight into the South African craft sector from a government perspective. This was helpful in considering more clearly what the Mozambican government’s role might be in supporting the sector directly and through Civil Society.

Kate Chisholm, director of The Africa Craft Trust said “The Mozambican delegates were inspired by the high level of creativity within the craft sector in South Africa – particularly by the wide range of high quality products and innovative designs” and that “overall the exchange gave the delegates a new perspective on the market possibilities of craft, and how extensive, diverse and complex those opportunities can be.” Participants gained a strengthened appreciation of how tourism is strengthened by craft and increased insight into what tourists want from their craft products. Importantly, they had time to discuss and elaborate action plans, capitalizing on fresh ideas and enthusiasm gained during this mission and the earlier workshop in Maputo. Mr Boaventura Afonso, Ministry of Culture focal point, stated that through the workshop and exchange “… participants had found common tasks in all sectors” and “…acquired unity of thinking” which would assist them all in future work in this area. The Action plans outlined the concrete ways in which participants would be able to make a difference to the growth and development of the Mozambican craft industry. Inspired by what they saw and learnt during the Johannesburg craft shop tours, the Ministry of Trade and Industry plan to conduct a national mapping of artisans and develop a comprehensive trading strategy. The Mpumalanga craft route has demonstrated the potential of combining culture and tourism to the Ministry of Tourism, and as part of their five year action plan, the Ministry intends to prioritize and recognize craft as a fundamental tourist attraction. The Ministry of Culture aim to create training packages for artisans in specific areas such as basketry, sculpture, pottery and weaving, and include craft in the national curriculum.

Going forward, it will be important to find a balance to ensure that cultural products and services are locally-inspired and retain a strong Mozambican identity, yet appeal to tourist and local market expectations and the demands of the international market. The development of this sector can only happen if the basic issues of infrastructure are addressed, and strategic support is provided to artisans. This is particularly relevant if any serious attempts are to be made at accessing new markets on an international level. The Government of Mozambique and the MDG-F are taking important steps to address these issues and ensure that the craft sector in Mozambique is stronger, fairer and more sustainable, and brings real rewards to both the artisans and the Mozambican economy.

For more information contact Moira Welch (m [dot] welch [at] unesco [dot] org), Advocacy and Communications, MDG-F Joint Programme for Strengthening Cultural and Creative Industries and Inclusive Policies in Mozambique.

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