Zimbabwe: Dubai Expo opens a window for local rural crafts

The ongoing Expo 2020 Dubai has opened a lucrative window for rural Zimbabwean women and handicrafts to connect to the global market, which has a greater appetite for these products.

Rural women generally constitute the majority of producers of basketry and embroidery-related textile products, with men more interested in stone and wood carving among other traditional artifacts.

These are selling like hot cakes here in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), where Zimbabwe has been participating since last October, among 191 states.

The Global Trade and Investment Expo ends this month.

In an interview yesterday, a director of the National Handicrafts Center under the Ministry of Women Affairs, Community Development and Small and Medium Enterprises, Mr. Martin Kwaramba, said that Binga and Lupane in Matabeleland North Province, Masvingo and the Midlands provinces, were the main sources. of handicrafts.

He said since arriving at the expo, basketry products have been selling like hot cakes with buyers looking for more and eager to expand their export links.

“Basketry products are in high demand here, followed by wood and stone carving as well as textile crochet,” Mr. Kwaramba said.

“Most of the items we brought here have been sold out and we have ordered more to bring with the shipment from home,” he revealed.

“All these products are from different craftsmen in the country, mainly from Binga, Hwange, Lupane, Masvingo and the Midlands as well as Buhera in Manicaland. Bulawayo was very good at working with stone.”

Globally, the arts and crafts sector is rapidly gaining momentum on the export front, with official figures showing that Zimbabwe was able to reap $5.2 million in revenue from the sector between January and August 2021.

Through ZimTrade, the government is working closely with industry players in their country to unlock its wider potential and contribution to the mainstream economy.

In this regard, Mr. Kwaramba said that Expo 2020 Dubai has become an eye-opener regarding the potential of the handicrafts sector in terms of contributing to job creation and the mainstream national economy.

“This platform has opened up many opportunities for us as we now know that there is a huge market for our products. As we export to countries such as the Netherlands, the UK, Japan and the United United, the Dubai exhibition allowed us to expand our market and through it, we should be able to enter the Asian market and the Gulf region,” he said.

“The feedback from the market is that the products from Zimbabwe are good and they are using them for the interior decoration of hotels and other high places.”

Mr Kwaramba said the expanded export market for handicrafts is good news for Zimbabwe as it empowers ordinary people.

He said that in the future, the country wants to get distribution agencies from buyers in Dubai to market these products on a large scale.

“That means we need to train our artisan communities to be more organized in order to tap into these global platforms. There is also a need to work on packaging and appeal issues,” Mr Kwaramba said.

“We will seek more partnerships and provide adequate training and capacity building.”

Here at Expo 2020 Dubai, handicrafts are on display in a separate stand and largely comprise a range of basketry, doilwork, wood and stone carvings, textile bags and objects artistic cabling, among others.