With AFAC, Africa’s indigenous crafts get international market

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Director-General, National Council for Arts and Culture, Mrs. Dayo Keshi (left); Chairman, House Committee on Culture and Tourism, Hon Ogbede-Ihana Omoriege; Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Incformation and Culture, Mrs. Ayotunde Adesugba cutting the tape to open the arts market and Chairman, Senate Committee on Culture and Tourism, Sen. Matthew Urhoghide at the opening of AFAC 2016… in Abuja

The 9th African Arts and Crafts Expo (AFAC 2016) has opened in Abuja with lots of indigenous arts and crafts products from within and outside Nigeria on display. Participating in this year’s exhibition are various states governments, non-governmental organisations, tertiary institutions, professional groups as well as individual exhibitors from across the country.

Beyond Nigeria were participants from Ghana, Mali, Sudan, Cameroon, Burkina Fasso and China. Since it made its debut in 2008, AFAC has remained a veritable platform, not only for marketing various indigenous products but also a forum for producers of arts and crafts, financial sector operators as well as relevant government agencies to brainstorm on how to move the cultural and creative industry forward.

Aside the business potentials, the regional platform also enables participants share ideas and network with other practitioners in all areas of competence, including production, marketing, packaging and presentation techniques towards achieving global standard.

While welcoming participants at this year’s expo, Director General, National Council for Arts and Culture (NCAC), organiser of AFAC, Mrs. Dayo Keshi, said the choice of this year’s theme, ‘African Arts and Craft: A Catalyst for Investment in the Nigerian Creative Industries,’ was a reflection of the past glory and dignity of the creative industries. She emphasised that the creative industry, in spite of its funding challenges, has remained a significant player in revenue generation.

“Equally, it challenges our collective resourcefulness in providing alternative road-maps out of our current national economic recession. A number of countries are now developing strategies to integrate and promote traditional or indigenous industries in national development”, Keshi said.

According to the D.G, the need to mainstream cultural industries into national economic policy was influenced by the growing recognition of its roles in the socio-economic development of any nation.

According to her, “Ghana has expanded its ambitious diversification plan to include developing traditional arts and crafts products that can create a niche market and generate employment. It also hopes to develop a continental market for its cultural goods. China, from inception, has invested in such industries as a pillar for its development, which has continued to play major roles in China’s rise to economic stardom.

“Back home, the African Arts and Crafts Expo is one of such initiatives that provide a platform for artistry, craftsmanship and entrepreneurial skills in the areas of our cultural industry to be discovered, developed and showcased with a view to exploring the investment opportunities and economic potentials that abound in the sector.”

Considering its level of acceptance and participation, especially among African countries, Keshi believed strongly that AFAC has the potentials to drive the economic diversification efforts of government, adding, “This year’s AFAC is emphatic about showcasing elements of good product design, perfect finishing as well as standard packaging and presentation aimed at global market standard.

“It is through product improvement that we can actually raise the value of the arts and crafts industry to becoming attractive source of job creation and wealth creation.”

She, therefore, challenged the collective resourcefulness of arts and crafts promoters, vendors as well as investors to take advantage of the potentials to invest in the sector, and noted, “The benefits of investing in the arts and crafts are enormous. These include development of local skills and talents, promotion of local and regional development, rise in the quality of community life and general standard of living of the people, high employment opportunities, rapid return on investment as well as preservation of our heritage.”

Declaring the two-week market open, Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, stated that AFAC was initiated to highlight the economic opportunities that abound in the creative industries. He recalled that one of the most remarkable indices of development since the middle of the 20th century has been the mobilization of culture and tourism as a preferred form of economic development at local, regional and national levels.

According to him, “Indeed, many governments of the world have integrated culture and tourism firmly into their economic development strategies in recognition of their potentials and as response to particular economic situations, such as ours.

“It is against this backdrop that this administration will be delighted to see this fair fully developed to exploit the innate capacity of our people, particularly those living in rural areas.”

Mohammed said hosting of AFAC has been a way of demonstrating Nigeria’s leadership role in the process of realising the goals of the New Partnership for African Development (NEPAD) as well as the African Growth and Opportunities Act (AGOA). This, he said, has been by way of creating a vibrant marketplace in Nigeria that serves Africa’s cultural industries.

Meanwhile, the Investment Forum, the intellectual segment of AFAC holds tomorrow, November 24 with emphasis on igniting the creative industries for sustainable investment. As a way of rewarding excellence, the programme will round off on November 29, with various awards for the best product designs, innovations and enterprises for individual groups and countries.

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