Producers and traders of handicrafts can now build capacity in product development, design, supply chain management and conformity with standards.
This after the enhanced Integrated Framework (EIF) was approved for Ministry of Tourism to receive a grant of up to $1.5m (Shs5.5 billion) to support handicrafts and souvenirs made in Uganda.
“One problem has been poor quality products and the other is marketing them,” Mr Godfrey Kiwanda, state minister for Tourism said at the launch of the Handicraft and Souvenir Development Project in Kampala.
The three year project comes at a time when the ministry is aggressively marketing destination Uganda.
Government is expected to support the project for four additional years after its current span.
Tourism is currently the leading foreign exchange earner to the Ugandan economy by generating over $1.5bn annually. The sector also contributes over 7 per cent to gross domestic product and contributes a total of at least 600,000 jobs (6.3 per cent of total employment in 2017).
It is believed that handicrafts will amplify stories about the country’s major tourist attractions and enhance these economic parameters.
Uganda’s biggest tourist sources are the US, Europe and East Africa. According to Ms Doreen Katusiime, the permanent secretary Ministry of Tourism, local producers should be able to tap into the pockets of international and domestic tourists given the country’s cultural diversity that offers a competitive advantage over other destinations. Uganda’s wide range of handicrafts includes baskets, mats, jewelry, pots, toys, textiles, bags, ornaments, and wood crafts. Production is largely by women and youth and it’s majorly cottage based where local raw materials are used and skills handed over from generations. Innovation and artistry are limited given the poor skills. Ms Katusiime says there is no available information to show the contribution of handicrafts to tourism revenues.
The ministry of Tourism plans to enter into partnerships with local governments to open up monthly markets for handicrafts and souvenir producers and traders. It has also agreed that participants will have to form associations if they are to benefit from the project.
“Entry is free, however, when it comes to international marketing, [producers] they will pay a small fee for instance for air fares. Our baseline is 1,000 producers. We need organised groups because we should be able to do monitoring and evaluation,” Ms Grace Aulo, the commissioner tourism development, said.