The value of exported art and craft products in Zimbabwe has significantly fallen over the seven-year period from $50 million in 2008 to $15 million in 2015, a cabinet minister has said.
Speaking at the official opening of the just ended Coordination Committee for Development of African Handicraft (CODEPA) Conference in Bulawayo, Small and Medium Enterprises and Cooperative Development Minister, Dr Sithembiso Nyoni said the sharp and concerning decline is as a result of sanctions imposed on the country by the west.
“The decline was mainly due to the impact of illegal sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe on the negative publicity perpetrated by our detractors which negatively impacted on tourist arrivals on tourist arrivals in the country,” said Nyoni.
She said her ministry in collaboration with relevant government departments has put in place various strategies to promote the development and growth of the SME sector which include among others the provision of training on business and technical management skills, market access, financial support services, capacity building of associations, improving the regulatory environment and provision of financial services through the Small and Medium Enterprises and Development Cooperation (SMEDCO).
“The government of Zimbabwe has recognised the importance of handicrafts as a viable sector that is essential for the economic development of the country.
Handicrafts have the potential to contribute to poverty alleviation and value addition and beneficiation of our resources in line with ZIMASSET,” Nyoni added.
Zimbabwe is known for its indigenous art and craft particularly the renowned shona stone sculpture and various products from all parts of the country.
The arts and crafts sector has allowed rural and urban people, to express themselves creatively, to talk about their own culture while making a living.
Furthermore, Zimbabwe is strategically placed in the SADC and COMESA regions to easily reach out to other markets in the regions.
Guest of Honour and Speaker of Parliament, Advocate Jacob Mudenda said the arts and craft sector can be handy in transforming communities into commercial centres and improve the livelihood of the people.
“In many developing countries, the contribution made to the economy and the export market through artisanry is increasing as more new craftspeople, especially youth and women are introduced to the sector as a solution to both rural and urban unemployment.
“In order to lessen the hurdles faced by players in this special sector, Member States should endeavor to address access to markets, ICT, funding and operating space among others. Professional training that would help youth and women increase their economic independence and social status in our communities,” said Mudenda.