Six West African companies showcased their products with assistance from USAID’s West Africa Trade Hub in the AfricaNow! pavilion at the New York International Gift Fair in August, reaching thousands of buyers and other industry professionals. Signs of an improving economy gave the show a positive vibe.
“It was a much more upbeat atmosphere and attitude,” said Leslie Mittelberg of Swahili Imports
. “I am more interested in the general vibe from my customers. If they are interested and taking notes, the orders come.”
Three days into the show, Swahili ran out of order forms and had to rush out to make more copies. At a show like this, that’s a promising sign.
With more than 2,800 exhibitors attracting more than 33,500 professional buyers, the New York International Gift Fair is the premier gift, home and lifestyle marketplace in the U.S. African companies make contacts with buyers, take orders, establish strategic partnerships with distributorships, test response to new product lines, and assess new trends.
Companies connected with hundreds of professional buyers in New York.
“New York is always a big venue for us, for marketing and for exporting,” said Patricia Badolo, director of the Village Artisanal de Ouagadougou
, which represents more than 70 Burkinabe artisan workshops. “It’s an important opportunity to sell the work of artisans from Burkina Faso.”
“I would say the best thing about this show has been the networking,” said Mary Osei Anto of Es N Yaa
, Ghana, a socially-conscious company that creates and sells handmade accessories from limited edition ‘Made in Ghana’ fabrics.It was the company’s first time exhibiting in the show and it successfully drew the interest of some major importers looking to pick up its collections for future shows.
Another Ghanaian exhibitor, Kwesi Asare of TK Beads
, a recycled bead manufacturer, received orders from China, Japan, Israel and the U.S. In addition, TK Beads established an important distributor relationship with Tribalinks, a well-established NYIGF exhibitor specializing in high end and ethnic jewelry.
The show featured a variety of new products developed with Trade Hub assistance. The Centre de Formation Artisanal de Recuperation et Recyclage, represented by the Senegalese Export Promotion Council, ASEPEX, thrilled many buyers with its fanciful collection of vibrant, fun furniture and home accessories made from recycled bottle, and the entire collection was picked up by importer Swahili Imports, which will showcase the company in upcoming shows and events..
of Ghana reported interest in its collections as well, and received orders from several new buyers. This is the first year that Global Mamas participated independently in this highly competitive show, with booth space in the juried Global Handmade pavilion
Alassan Ouadrago of Napam Beogo in Ouagadougou, exhibited for the first time in New York his collection of wildly colored fabric beads. Buyers were thrilled with the new collection and kept him busy taking orders. Napam Beogo is an association founded to generate employment for handicapped individuals and has grown and now supports women and youth employment and works with 17 artisan groups.
. also in the Global Handmade pavilion, showcased several new collections from Ghana inspired by design inputs from USAID’s Trade Hub. Many of these collections have been sampled by major U.S. catalogs and retail chains.
“People liked the nesting boxes with recycled printer’s plating,” said Jasperdean Kobes, Bamboula’s owner. “The whole recycling thing is big here.”
Kobes and others said the buzz of the show was encouraging. “We are coming out of a recession,” she noted “And this show is surprisingly pretty good.”
By guiding companies to build sustainable business-to-business relationships with buyers and importers, and offering on-going, targeted technical inputs and mentoring to exhibiting companies, AfricaNow!
supports the overall growth in the home décor and accessories sector, generating employment for women and men across West Africa.