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Swaziland not taking advantage of AGOA - Minister

Mbabane: Swaziland has not taken full advantage of the African Growth and Opportunities Act preferential market in the United States despite it being vast, says Minister of Commerce, Industry and Trade Jabulile Mashwama. She said the country continued to secure markets for producers to export to trading blocs like the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa which offered preferences for the country’s products.  Mashwama said COMESA, SADC and the EAC were joining up to form a Tripartite Free Trade Area (TFTA) that would also provide wider access for the country’s products.

She was speaking during TechnoServe Handicraft Indaba at Mountain Inn yesterday. The event was supported by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

'We encourage Swazi producers to engage with the ministry, specifically the international trade department, to get advice on the eligibility of their products under AGOA. Also, they will be informed on other markets the country has preferential access to. The ministry is convinced that the handicraft sector presents a unique opportunity for employment creation and poverty reduction,' she said.

Mashwama said through the handicraft industry, Swaziland had gained an international reputation for well established and beautifully designed products. She said the sector was a major attraction for tourists and as such some international commentators had commended the ‘high quality handicrafts’ as one of Swaziland’s selling points.

Mashwama said internationally many organisations and buyers recognised the country as a source of handicraft. She said the sector could be further explored to create businesses and jobs for hundreds or thousands of crafters, managers and entrepreneurs. She said the Indaba would help address constraints that handicraft producers and stakeholders were faced with as well as identify solutions through a process of constructive management.

Over 2 500 Swazis in handicraft industry

UNITED States Ambassador to Swaziland Earl Irving has observed that already the handicraft industry is employing 2 500 Swazis. He said a recent study by TechnoServe had discovered that the average handcrafter supports just over seven dependants. Irving said such meant that thousands of Swazis received indirect economic support from this industry hence families were living better.

Irving said Swazi handcrafters were known for their skills and rich culture, which they were working on preserving. He was speaking during TechnoServe’s Handicraft Indaba held at Mountain Inn yesterday.  'There is a strong market for handicrafts, both selling to local tourists at handicraft centres, but also more and more regional as well as international markets. Swaziland has a clear opportunity to meet the international demand for unique handicrafts with Swazi made products,' he said.

Irving said the Indaba provided an opportunity to define a vision where handicrafts could be five years from now. He advised participants to work hard so as to achieve the goals they set for themselves. Irving said developing business skills would be a critical part of that hard work while marketing, production capability and legal structures would also be important to achieve business success. He said communication between stakeholders would also be equally important.

Big businesses paving way in global markets

MINISTER of Commerce, Industry and Trade Jabulile Mashwama has noted that large handicraft businesses in the country have paved way for smaller ones in global markets. She said the ministry had noted the progress made by the large businesses that export products regionally and globally, some having become strong such that they would provide workers with social services such as access to health care.

Mashwama was speaking during TechnoServe’s Handicraft Indaba held at Mountain Inn yesterday. The event was supported by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). 'These businesses have given Swaziland a good name internationally as a supplier of well designed and high quality handicraft products. They have also paved way for the smaller ones to enter global markets. This is very important in that if these continue to grow they will be able to create jobs and address the poverty levels in the country,' she said.

Mashwama said many small-scale informal entrepreneurs continued the strong tradition of Swazi craft and upheld the important base of showcasing the country’s culture through their craftwork. She said such also presented the potential for growth in the industry.

The minister said the ministry’s challenge was to help such businesses grow so as to achieve their full potential by being better organised, capacity building and the identification of markets.  She encouraged the crafters for their dedication despite the challenges they faced like cross border issues and finding suitable premises to operate from.

She said it would be imperative that the country be engaged in deliberate effort to identify talent among the youth and provide an appropriate environment for numerous talents to grow.

20 May 2011
The Swazi Observer
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