African Arts and Crafts Expo (AFAC 2017), organised by National Council for Arts and Culture (NCAC), ended recently in Abuja, with a new commitment to repositioning the arts and crafts sector of the economy. The three week regional market did not only witness some introductions, it equally recorded high turn out of government officials at both state and federal levels.
Apart from the 17 states that participated, several African nations came with their goods and services. Some of them include The Gambia, Ghana, South Sudan, Mali, Republic of Niger, Morocco, Senegal, Sudan, Burkina Fasso and Cameroon. The market was, however, dominated by private sector participants, who not only marketed their wares, but also made contacts and exchanged ideas on the production, finishing and packaging of indigenous arts and crafts.
In fact, over 49 non-government organisations registered and participated at the expo. There were also some tertiary institutions in attendance as well as foreign embassies. Some of the products on display included herbal medicine, indigenous fabrics, jewelries, various crafts and pottery wares.Services such as dental and optical were also provided free while over 200 pairs of medicated glasses were distributed to individuals following optical examination.
Also of interest at the fair was the provision of free skills acquisition for women and youths. The segment provided training in various skills to over 500 candidates. Organised by NCAC, in collaboration with experts in various arts and crafts, the aim, according to the Director-General of NCAC, Otunba Segun Runsewe, was to equip participants with enough capacities to be economically self-reliant.
Some of the skills included bead making, head-gear tying, make-over, local body creams, detergents, painting and card making, air freshener as well as head-do. Throughout the duration of the expo, interested Nigerians were given the opportunity to acquire various skills in the arts, crafts and textiles. At the end of the three weeks, practical tests were conducted for the best candidates, who would be accessing soft loans from the grants provided by the Bank of Industry (BoI).
Interestingly, AFAC was the first major outing organised by Runsewe since he assumed office as chief executive of the parastatal. The expo held at NCAC permanent site, which was given a facelift shortly before the event. Recall that AFAC was introduced eight years ago as a regional market for arts and crafts. Unfortunately, past chief executives could not sustain the tempo as the market suffered neglect.
On assuming office, Runsewe pledged his commitment to boost the market, first by ensuring government presence and also by ensuring that it was properly packaged for both public and private sector patronage. At the official opening ceremony, government officials had pledged to devote greater attention to the arts and crafts sector of the economy, as an alternative revenue generation platform.
Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Information and Culture and former director in the then Ministry of Culture and Tourism, Mrs. Grace Gekpe, represented the Ministry. She lamented that the sector had been neglected by subsequent administrations. Considering the dwindling price of crude oil in the international market, she stated that it was time to direct attention to the arts and crafts sector of Nigerian economy.
“From now, the sector would be resuscitated to improve on the nation’s economy as well as create employment opportunity for the youths and women in rural areas,” she said.
Gekpe, therefore, appealed to state governments to pay proper attention to the development of arts and crafts in their respective states and advised stakeholders in the sector to form cooperative societies so as to have full access to the sum of N200 million that the National Council for Arts Culture (NCAC) signed with Bank of Industry. She also called on traditional rulers, in whose domains the raw materials needed for production of indigenous crafts are found, to make such available to the people.
In his remarks, event chairman and Deputy Governor of Edo State, Hon. Philip Shuaibu, canvassed massive investment in arts and crafts sector, as a panacea for unemployment. According to him, failure to do so might spell doom for the nation’s economy, adding, “For serious investment in the sector however, there is need for public/private sectors partnership.”
Also, former Deputy Governor of Plateau State, Mrs. Pauline Tallen, who served as mother of the day, commended the efforts vested in this edition of the expo by Runsewe in the three months of his appointment as the chief executive of NCAC. She urged Nigerian youths and women to embrace the opportunities offered by the expo to develop their talents in various areas of arts and crafts for individual development and economic self-reliance.
ON his part, Runsewe expressed optimism that if AFAC was properly funded and developed, it could serve as catalyst that would not only drive the economic diversification efforts of the government, but equally contribute immensely in fast-tracking the growth of the nation’s economy.
After the official opening, states took turn to celebrate their days at the market. Nasarawa, Kano, Bayelsa and Ogun States celebrated their days with funfair and cultural performances.
On Nasarawa Day, Runsewe restated the role of arts and culture in the peaceful co-existence among Nigerians, noting, “We in the council are doing exactly this. We will go places to use culture and crafts from the various states and Abuja to promote unity in the country.”
Runsewe, while commending Nasarawa State Governor, Umaru Tanko Al-Makura, for developing arts and crafts in his state, urged other state governors to emulate him as the sector, if properly harnessed, would provide employment opportunities for jobless youths and remove them from the streets.
Also, Al-Makura, who was represented by his wife, Dr. (Mrs.) Mero Tanko Al-Makura and the Deputy, Hon. Sailas Ali Agara commended Runsewe for his commitment towards the development of the sector. At the end, certificates of participation were awarded to both local and foreign participants.