For the first time in six years, the flag of Liberia is flying high among the ensigns of other African Countries participating in the African Arts and Crafts (AFAC) Expo, taking place in Abuja, Nigeria.
The 6thAFAC EXPO at the Eagle Square in Abuja from June 11-15 under the theme: “Leveraging the Arts and Crafts Industry for Job Creation and Economic Empowerment,” brings together traders from more than ten countries, including Liberia, Ghana, Senegal, Cameroon, Mali, Chad, Gambia and host Nigeria, as well as China and Korea.
A young Liberian entrepreneur Fatumata Conde, a dealer in textiles, beads and art work,is representing Liberia.
Ms. Conde, who has been participating in the fair for the past three years as an ordinary trader, said she felt accomplished representing her country. “All these years Liberia has not been present, I feel I have already achieved much just by the presence of the Liberian flag here among other country flags and people are trooping in, some former peacekeepers; just to identify with us” she explained.
Ms. Conde said that she was proud that people have the opportunity to see the creativity and hard work of Liberians and know that the country has graduated from war and is moving forward. She is also hopeful of making good sales during the one week fair.
Displaying exquisitely designed Barzaan and Tye and Dye gowns, art works and beads in her stand, the Liberian entrepreneur said there was a uniqueness about her material that made it stand out among the many gowns, beads and art works being displayed in other stands. “You see a lot of gowns and beads around, but ours are unique, it’s the style and design. We make them ourselves; I do the beadings with creativity, my aunt sews the gowns and my uncle does the art work” she explained.
A suave trader in the technological age, Ms. Conde explained how she used social media, especially Facebook, to advertise and sell her fabrics and beads and was planning to launch her designs to Blackberry users. Though she sells her wares on the Internet, the Liberian entrepreneur said she was working towards opening a clothing store back home.
Officially opening the 6th AFAC Expo on Monday, the First Lady of Nigeria, Dame Patience Jonathan, said that the event provided a platform for craftsmen and women all over Africa and the world to make contacts, interact, showcase and market their products, share ideas and concepts while building international co-operation and understanding.
The Nigerian First Lady said it was encouraging that this year’s Expo attracted participation from many countries than previous years.
She described it as one of the potent tools toward realizing some of the objectives of ECOWAS and the African Union. “In this context, it is my belief that the cause of promoting peace will be well served if the development of creative skills is given priority attention by effective policy backing and strong support through proper funding” said Dame Jonathan.
For his part the Minister of Tourism, Culture and National Orientation Chief Edem Duke said the 6th AFAC Expo was organized to reawaken the consciousness of the cultural sector and promote import/export business of African Crafts to the international community.
According to Chief Duke, the Expo also provides the platform for the sharing of ideas and awareness creation on policy issues in participating countries as well as the creation of continental and inter-continental partnerships.
He hailed the National Council for Arts and Culture for organizing the event which is proactively contributing to the Transformation Agenda of Nigeria with direct bearing on empowering the women, youth and the rural populace.
The Nigerian Culture and Tourism Minister used the occasion to announce that the Ministry is planning to launch the Nigeria Shopping Festival in December this year, and a Global Tourism Brand ‘Fascinating Nigeria’, a program that will launch Nigeria into the global tourism stage.
The African Arts and Crafts Expo was established by the National Council for Arts and Culture of Nigeria, an agency of the Federal Ministry of Tourism Culture and National Orientation, to recapture the essence of the cultural industries and reenact its wealth creation potential.
Participating Countries and individual business people at the event are not only trading but partaking in seminars on capacity building and business strategies as well as an investment forum.
Topics discussed at the seminars include: Strengthening the Arts and Crafts Industry for Economic Empowerment, Strengthening the Arts and Crafts Industry through Legislation, Finance and Marketing and The Potentials in the Crafts Sub-sector in China.