Africa Fashion Guide
A social enterprise promoting sustainability within Africa's fashion and textile industry.


August 30th, 2012


The opportunities to see amazing African crafts at West Africa’s largest handcrafts event are almost endless. Want to see upscale contemporary collections from top African designers? You’ll certainly find them. Want to see the best of traditional handcrafts? You’ll be surrounded by them. Want to discuss the inspirations that drive artisans’ creativity? The opportunities to chat are endless – though you may have to wait in line. Want to buy fabulous products? They’re everywhere: The show is above all a fantastically African bazaar, alive and undulating energy, with hundreds of booths exhibiting virtually every type of handcraft available in Africa.

Simply put, the Salon International de l’Artisanat de Ouagadougou – generally referred to as SIAO has no equal. It is Africa’s largest handcrafts event drawing hundreds of thousands of people to the Burkinabe capital every two years.

“SIAO is set up by the Burkina government with the goal of increasing exports of handcrafts,” said Abdoulaye Zongo, Director General of SIAO. “But it also serves as a place of training for artisans. It serves many purposes. We’re very pleased that the USAID West Africa Trade Hub is a trusted partner for SIAO 2012.”

SIAO attracts hundreds of thousands of people, drawn mainly by the opportunity to see and buy handcrafts at more than 550 exhibitor stands. Most importantly, it allows buyers and producers to meet and establish relationships for future orders. SIAO offers exciting opportunities to increase handcrafts exports from West Africa. For the first time, SIAO 2012 will feature a business-to-business forum, facilitating connections between buyers and producers.

 “For us, SIAO is very important,” said Inoussa Dao, the creative director at Centre Lukare in Ouagadougou, a producer of contemporary home decor. “It’s a big opportunity, first, to sell products and then to meet buyers for future orders. And we also have the opportunity to meet other artists,” he added. “A lot of artists come and there’s an opportunity to exchange ideas. It’s inspirational.”

And, as it has since 2008, the USAID West Africa Trade Hub will present workshops under AfricaNow!, the international brand supported by the USAID Trade Hub and the AfricaNow! network of producers, exporters and buyers.

“SIAO is the singular event for the handcrafts industry in West Africa,” said Elaine Bellezza, home décor and fashion accessories advisor at the USAID Trade Hub. “It’s wonderfully exciting even if a bit chaotic. Amid all the activity we will facilitate discussions that we believe are critical to the sector’s positive growth.”

SIAO Burkina Faso 2012 – image courtesy West Africa trade Hub

SIAO Burkina Faso 2012 – image courtesy West Africa trade Hub

Bellezza will conduct the training workshops this year, which will take place Oct. 30 to Nov. 1 on the SIAO grounds site. Register online here. Similar workshops were conducted in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, and Dakar, Senegal, in July and August; the presentations appear below.

“We’re particularly excited this year because we have identified an important opportunity to strengthen and deepen the AfricaNow! network – by bringing exporters together, who serve as the glue for this industry by connecting producers to buyers,” Bellezza said. “The workshops this year target these exporters and will emphasize the relationship building among and between them.”

On a recent afternoon, the SIAO grounds were deceptively calm – but pockets of activity betrayed the quiet: At one end of the grounds, a huge new pavilion is taking shape, which will feature 9,000-square-meters of air conditioned exhibition space. Dozens of workers – masons, electricians, steelworkers – were toiling on the building, which has risen rapidly.

SIAO Burkina Faso 2012 – image courtesy West Africa trade Hub

SIAO Burkina Faso 2012 – image courtesy West Africa trade Hub

On another corner, a team of six men were laying stones for a new seating area where dozens of vendors will roast, fry, boil and steam food of all types. And near the main entrance, a team was applying a new coat of paint to brighten the main stage, which features live entertainment of all sorts – fashion shows, musical groups, cultural troupes and award ceremonies.

“SIAO  is very important because it focuses on the handcrafts industry,” Zongo said. “Artisans need support to perfect their creations and assist their businesses – and increase their productive capacity. In some respect, everyone is affected by the handcrafts industry in West Africa – beyond the cultural importance, it’s critically important to the economy of each country,” he said.

Look for AfricaNow! in the Yellow Pavilion at SIAO 2012! The USAID West Africa Trade Hub is pleased to invite handcrafts exporters to participate in its three-day series of workshops during SIAO 2012. Online registration is now open! 

Author: Joe Lamport

Source: West Africa Trade Hub republished with permission



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