A strategy that will see Rwandan handcrafts sold online is in its final stages with optimism that the move will increase handcraft sales and boost the country’s export revenues.

Oliver R Ward, the Executive Director of Rex Clement, a UK based company said that the e-commerce strategy through a website that is due to be launched within the next 46 weeks will enable Rwandan products to be sold online around the world  using  credit cards.

“Whenever people visit Rwanda and take Rwandan handcraft home, they are always asked where they can also buy, which has been difficult,” he said, adding that the e-commerce will enable people to access
handicrafts at their convenient time.

Oliver noted that the sales received from the website sales will be credited to Ikaze showroom that brings together Rwandan Artisans. 90 percent of the sales will go to artisans while the showroom will retain 10 percent.

The Rwf150m showroom was officially launched on Friday last week. It is a brainchild of the Handcraft Excellence Award Programme (HEAP), which was initiated last year by the Ministry of Trade and Industry to promote handcraftsmanship. It attracted Rwanda’s 92 best artisans across the country following tight competitions.

Managing Director of Ikaze agency Ruth Mukasahaha, says that the one year partnership between Rex Clement and  the Ministry of Trade and Ikaze showroom will look at helping artisans to improve their products, carry out international market research among others.

Francois Kanimba, the Minister of Trade and Industry said the e-commerce will increase export receipts. Rwanda urgently needs to increase her export revenues to bridge the existing huge trade deficit.

Official statistics indicate that Rwanda’s trade deficit stands at 33.9 percent with import revenues standing at US$1.5bn against export receipts close to US$743.5m. Any efforts to promote exports will help bridge the shortfall.

“The idea is to expand the capacity of Artisans to produce more products,” Kanimba said, adding that his Ministry decided to facilitate to establish a permanent trade showroom for Rwanda and link them bigger markets.

Paulin Rugero, the president of the Artisan Association noted that handcraft business has been sluggish due to lack of markets, especially for exports hence holding back their creativity and quality.

Meanwhile, Lolo Mucyo Gasana, a marketing and public relations strategy expert said local artisans are set to receive another boost with two showrooms that are set to be open in Canada, in June and France in August while a new deal was signed to sell Rwandan handcrafts in Australia.

Promotion of handcraftsmanship will help create more jobs. Statistics indicated that over 30,000 people are employed in the handcraft sector.

“We strongly believe that by supporting artisans to expand we are addressing the issue of  unemployment,”  Kanimba said.

By Dias Nyesiga, The New Times

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