The Salon International de l’Artisanat de Ouagadougou is many things to many. In thousands of booths, artisans exhibit virtually every type of handcraft, from bronze statues to wood carvings, recycled glass beads, bright handwoven fabrics to recycled metal rustic furniture.
“SIAO 2010 went very well – we attained all of our objectives,” said Moussa Traoré, executive director of the event, and leading his first SIAO as head of the Burkinabé government institution that organizes it every two years. “The show attracted more than 3,000 exhibitors, 300 international buyers, and more than 300,000 visitors.”
“It’s gotten better and better,” said Phyllis Woods, an international buyer with Tribalinks
who has been coming to the event since 1992. “It’s more refined and more professional with a lot more product that is saleable and importable to the U.S. market.
“For me to come here is a very valuable experience. In a concentrated form you get so much information, so much product that you couldn’t get if you were traveling,” Woods added. “And you have the best people in Africa here, all in one place. It’s a great opportunity.”
SIAO includes thousands of exhibits, live music and food, fashion shows and theatre. Officially, the show closes at 9 p.m., but its beat usually thumps past midnight.
U.S. Ambassador Thomas Dougherty and SIAO 2010 Executive Director Moussa Traoré.
The show featured a number of innovations to help international buyers, including an information stand with specific information on all exhibitors, and a “Blue Star” program that helped buyers quickly identify export-ready handcrafts producers at the show. The USAID West Africa Trade Hub and SIAO 2010 collaborated closely on the Blue Star program, explained Elaine Bellezza, the USAID Trade Hub’s handcrafts sector advisor.
“SIAO is a destination for international buyers – making it buyer-friendly is important,” Bellezza said.
Collaboration among and between stakeholders not only generates lots of business – it also generates synergy among stakeholders. At SIAO 2010, stakeholders pledged to establish an alliance for the industry with representatives from across the value chain under the AfricaNow!
“This is a chance to build the industry,” said Hervé Croquette, a buyer from Tradition et Exception in France, echoing participants’ sentiments. “We can spread the information on the norms to respect and international market requirements.
“It’s an enormous opportunity for Africa to access the international market in a structured fashion with the guidance of experts.”
Aissata Sidibé from Ami and Co. in Mali agreed. She works with women who create hand-woven cotton textiles.
“We are producers, processors and traders all at the same time,” Sidibé explained. “This will connect our industry, this will link us to the world market more effectively. It’s a very good idea.”
An alliance could help more producers achieve the export success of Oumar Cissé, whose company, Farafina Tigne
of Mali, was judged to be the Best Exporter at SIAO 2010 by a USAID-SIAO team of experts. The company’s outstanding record as an exporter to world markets won it the prize.
“It’s incredible for me,” said Cissé, who has been exporting handcrafts from Mali for 20 years. “In the beginning, I lost a lot of money, but I learned how to do it.
“I learned a lot about pricing. The big issues for exporters in West Africa are monitoring the quality and packaging.”
USAID and SIAO 2010 collaborated to present a week-long series of seminars to help handcrafts producers attain Cisse’s level. U.S. Ambassador Thomas Dougherty and Minister of Commerce, Enterprise Promotion and Handcrafts Léonce Koné opened the event.
From left, Patricia Badolo of the Village Artisanal de Ouagadougou, Karen Gibbs of byhand consulting and Bridget Kyeremanten-Darko of Aid to Artisans Ghana discussed issues for exporters at the USAID-SIAO seminars.
The series covered issues handcrafts producers and exporters face when they compete in international markets, from the trade preferences available under the African Growth and Opportunity Act
to how to use ICT to improve competitiveness, from market trends to how to access international markets. Click here
to access the presentations!
More than 300 producers attended the seminar series and international buyers shared their perspectives on competing in international markets.
The Trade Hub also facilitated the visits of seven international buyers to SIAO 2010, linking them directly to producers and exporters at the show and taking them to workshops in and around Ouagadougou.
John Hayden of Jamtown
USA, which imports djembe drums for sale in the American market. “I’m in a francophone country, dealing with a variety of export issues.”
Buyers visited artisans' workshops in and around Ouagadougou.
SIAO is catering to international buyers to take advantage of at least one important trend in the handcrafts industry, an international consultant on trade shows told participants at the USAID-SIAO seminar series.
“Buyers are going to regional trade shows,” said Karen Gibbs, of byhand consulting
, which works around the world with trade shows to improve their ability to connect to international markets. “They are branching out from the large shows – it’s an important trend.”
During a pause in the compelling action that SIAO presents, Gibbs said SIAO was uniquely African.
“It’s a total cultural adventure – it speaks so much of the culture of the African handcrafts sector,” she said. “It’s a riot of noise, color and activity.”
But the show is not as conducive to export trade as it could be, she said.
“The logistics are complicated – it can be hard for a buyer to just get in to the show,” she said. “They need to make it easier to get badges.”
Traore, the executive director, conceded the point, but said his team was aggressively tackling the issue.
“It’s an issue and we are working on it,” he said. “Still most people had their badges on the first day.”
Badges aside, Gibbs and other visitors agreed it was an exciting event, without parallel. SIAO is, unlike many events of its kind around the world, she said.
As the show wound down, its new executive director could breathe with relief. SIAO 2010 had gone well and accolades were coming in from all directions.
“To be at the head is a great privilege but also a big responsibility,” Traore said. “I feel satisfaction that we succeeded and a great deal of gratitude toward all of our partners, the service providers, the SIAO staff and the SIAO commission.”