Promoting alternative industries: Cameroonian craftsmanship on the rise

BY GODLOVE BAINKONG, 3 MARCH 2014

Original report can be found here

Some close to 2,000 craftsmen from within and without Cameroon who took part in the fourth edition of the biennial International Handicrafts Fair of Cameroon (SIARC) are en route to their regions, villages or country of origin with varied stories of how the two-week show fared. As the exhibitors count their blessings from what Yaounde offered, organizers are also drawing the balance sheet hopefully to right the wrongs during the fifth edition in 2016.

Already, it emerged from the closing ceremony yesterday March 3 chaired by the Minister of Small and Medium-size Enterprises, Social Economy and Handicrafts, Laurent Serge Etoundi Ngoa, who represented the Prime Minister, that the 1,750 – 2,000 craftsmen attracted over 10,000 visitors to the exhibition village in Tsinga daily. According to the General Commissioner of SIARC, Malet ma Njami Mal Njam, of the 1,750 – 2,000 exhibitors, the State took care of about 500 from Cameroon. This consisted in transporting them from their base to Yaounde, giving them stands and some money to take them through the period. To this is added others who although not selected came in to showcase their ingenuity, create sustainable business contacts as well as make returns. Some 20 foreign delegations from within and without Africa were also part of the Yaounde show.

Although detailed statistics on how much the show brought to the organisers are yet to be gathered, the fact that gate takings were fixed at FCFA 200 per visitor and that about 100,000 people visited the village gives an idea of what gate takings alone raised. Most of the foreign delegations, the General Commissioner said, sold almost all of what they had. He said this is because they came along with fine and cost-effective products. Malet ma Njami Mal Njam noted that Cameroonians who had products needed by the public might not have sold all but they however made good business. He sounded upbeat that with the workshops and other reflection forums that characterised the show, the knowledge gained and experiences shared would push craftsmen and women to improve their products, step up their standards of living and improve the sector’s 36 per cent current contribution to Gross Domestic Product. The show began on February 20 and gained effervescence after the official opening ceremony on February 24. Government spent about FCFA 700 million for its organisation.

Closing the show, Prof. Laurent Serge Etoundi Ngoa said SIARC has come to stay and government will not spare any effort in continually improving its welfare. The hallmark of the closing ceremony was the award of prizes of excellence (attestations and money) to exhibitors who distinguished themselves with varied fine craft works.