Local handcrafts dealers are pushing for an alliance to boost market access for their products through exports in a bid to balance the country's trade deficit.
People who collect data do not go to exit points
Janet Nkubana, chairperson of the exporters association, noted that the alliance would help bring together handicraft exporters and make them better acquainted with their market destinations which would in turn help in meeting the current huge demand.
"To be precise and have the industry grow is to do a proper check of how many exporters we have and how many are aspiring."
She noted that the alliance would facilitate a linkage between exporters and producers and provide a platform where the latter could be aided to increase the quality and quantity of their products through innovation.
The handicraft industry, which was recently bolstered by the government courtesy of the handicraft Excellency Awards programme (HEAP), lacks apt data in terms of exports and exporters, thus retarding further growth and interventions.
According to statistics collected from Rwanda Revenue Authority, handicraft exports fetched $152,000 in the first quarter of this year, which exporters decry did not reflect all exports.
"People who collect data do not go to exit points and much of the handicrafts go through cargo, and others export in small numbers through Fedex, which are not recorded," Nkubana noted.
The Minister of Trade and Industry, Francois Kanimba, said there is need for a survey of exporters to get the right statistics, adding that the figures announced were recorded by only one exporter, yet the country has over 12 legal handicraft exporters.
"I don't, think we can rely on Rwanda Revenue Authority on these small exports; we need to carry out a survey like we did with other exports."
The government is banking on the handicraft industry as one way of increasing job creation to boost the incomes of middle income populations especially women and the youth to help boost export receipts that stood at US$104.8 million in the first quarter of this year.
The minister further recommends the strengthening of handicraft cooperatives to access finance to improve production in order to meet the huge demand of Rwandan handicraft products in the global market. Currently, local handicrafts are exported to Japan, US, UK, Canada, among other countries.
"If I got credit, I noted increase on my production because I have the capacity but most of the times I don't have money to buy materials to use," Jackline Uwamahoro, a handbag producer said.