PRESIDENT Goodluck Jonathan has said the craft industry could mitigate the challenges of unemployment and create wealth as well as promote the socio-economic integration of Africa through its regional market platform.
The President gave the hint at the official opening of this year's African Arts and Crafts (AFAC) at the weekend in Abuja.
Represented by the Minister of State, Federal Capital Territory, Navy Captain Kaleb O. Olubolade (rtd), said the art and craft industry represents a veritable promising investment opportunity, which is yet to be meaningfully exploited.
"I am therefore glad that the African Arts and Craft Expo been initiated as an effective platform that will create the much required consciousness to enable us take a structured look at this vibrant sector."
Optimistic that the Expo will re-awaken the past glamour, glory and dignity of the crafts industry and transform it into a significant contributor to the country's foreign exchange earnings, the President tasked practitioners to endeavour to acquire relevant skills and knowledge that will enhance the production of goods that will compete favourably in the global market.
Representing the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) was Mrs. Ruth David of the Human Resources Development. Congratulating the ministry of Tourism, Culture and National Orientation on behalf of the Commission, she said that promoting national, regional as well as continental integration through the initiative was one of the greatest achievements of the Expo.
Since culture is globally acclaimed as a fundamental dimension of economic development, David said that societies that ensure integration of cultural factor into developmental strategies can be said to be on the right track to attaining a well- balanced development that is rooted in socio-economic emancipation of the people.
She noted that ECOWAS has noted that AFAC, as a major regional and continental event, has over the years, exposed and brought to lime light, works of African culture professionals that offer them the opportunity to highlight their creativity, establish working relationship, exchange ideas, promote and market their works.
"The resultant positive ripple effect being that Nigeria through its hosting of the AFAC is assisting ECOWAS community citizens in their capacity for innovation, adaptation and improvement of their living conditions, through promoting sustainable development that safeguard solidarity, unity, free movement and inter mingling of peoples, exchange of goods and services, promotion of human rights, development of regional tourism, promotion of the culture of peace and the fostering of the regional integration process as ECOWAS moves from an ECOWAS of state to an ECOWAS of people in fulfillment of its Vision 2020".
Earlier in his welcome address, the Executive Director, National Council of Arts and Craft (NCAC), organisers of the annual regional market, Mr. M.M Maidugu said that the expo with the theme Promoting Craft Industry for Economic Transformation, seeks to explore, develop market and generally leverage the nation’s rich and diverse craft industry with a view to effectively respond to government’s effort at job creation, youth empowerment and rural economic transformation.
He said the two weeks event will also show case the best of African craft. Also revealed that a one-day Investment Forum that is designed to stimulate creative discourse with a view to sharing imparting skills on the people holds today.
“it is to direct attention and emphasis on product design, development and market strategy by so doing our product could be able to compete favourable and exile at the global market.
The Minister of Tourism, Culture and National Orientation, Alhaji Abubakar Sadiq Mohammed, was represented by the Director of Tourism, Mrs. Sola Olumeko. He said the expo was influenced by the challenges of harnessing art and craft for national development.
According to him, Africa has comparative advantage and we should tap the resource of this expo to grow and market the regional craft industry for social-cultural integration that Africa Union Charter seeks to promote.Over ten African countries including Ghana, Mali, Senegal, Gambia, Niger, Cameroon, are participating in the market that closes on May 31. Also in attendance are Non Governmental Organisations (NGO), student bodies, individual artisans and various state of the federation.