As Africans, we grew up believing that artisans were victims of the economy. They don’t come to mind when you talk about success or financial freedom. You are either a Doctor, Lawyers, or a failure. That was the mindset of the average African child. Society failed to teach us that artisans play a vital role in the growth of the economy. The role of artisans in growing the economy of any nation can not be overemphasised.
Now, the narrative is gradually changing as a lot of people now see prospects in the artisan sector. With the advent of entrepreneurship and self-employment, a lot of people are innovating in the artisan sector. There is a strong parallel between entrepreneurship and the artisan sector, so, artisans play an important role in developing economies.
An artisan is a skilled worker or craftsperson. Examples are bakers, mechanics, technicians, etc. You can become an artisan through an apprenticeship which is a pathway to entrepreneurship. And, entrepreneurship has lifted millions of households out of poverty. The informal sector is the single largest employer of labour among developing countries, and a chunk of that sector are artisans.
The Role Of Artisans In Growing The Economy
What role can artisans play to grow an economy, especially developing economies. Sit tight as we find out.
1.) Job Creation
Way before the industrial revolution and oil boom in African, artisans were responsible for creating jobs and exporting earnings. The sector has been self-sufficient for years and has played a huge role in keeping the middle and lower echelons of the economy together from time immemorial.
However, like other sectors, it has huge untapped potential that can boost income and employment globally. However, things are changing with the entrepreneurial revolution, so there are opportunities for artisans to increase their market reach and scale using technology.
Also, there are many grant opportunities available for artisans. These opportunities have been made available by the government to help artisans grow their crafts into sustainable businesses that can employ labour and help reduce unemployment. Also, opportunities abound that offer business skills and technical knowledge to help sustain and grow the operations of artisans.
2.) Bridging The Supply Chain Gap In Industries
When you take a look at the value and growth potential of the artisan sector, you will begin to understand their impact in helping grow an economy. It is true that the artisan sector has a perception problem and that most people do not understand the full economic value of the sector. However, the sector is beginning to attract millennials and tease their preferences.
More so, one very important role that the artisan sector plays in growing the economy, is bridging the supply chain gap. The sector has been self-sufficient and for many years has bridged the over bloating supply chain gap in many industries. We can’t rule out the fact that this sector drives and completes the value chain of most industries, especially in developing economies with an infrastructural deficit.
3.) Artisans Preserve Cultures At Risk Of Extinction
The way of life of a people has a direct or indirect impact on the economy of the people. Some cultures are shaped by artisans and artisans shape cultures. Sometimes this art transcends to community craft.
In addition, economies are made up of people and not buildings – community-driven. A classic case study of this point is the Ijaw clans of the Niger/Delta region of Nigeria. The Ijaws were fish farmers and knew all sorts of aquatic craft. But, the discovery of oil and the oil boom destroyed the artisans and their community craft, rendering them and their culture useless. As a result, they became victims of the economy – which led to militancy and civil unrest.
The feeling of disorientation experienced by artisans when they are suddenly subjected to an unfamiliar culture and way of life makes them a victim of the economy. This is because a community’s ability to generate a livelihood through its artisan traditions generates far more cohesion, pride, and meaning.
Artisan entrepreneurs are challenged by an inability to tap into established supply chains and experience hiccups in building their craft to scale, because of lack of proper training and fundings. Clearly, most people still do not understand the full economic value of the sector, including the artisans. This is why there is a need for proper sensitization and a need for a general overhaul of the industry, not just establishing associations that lack systems and structures.
We need to start seeing artisan businesses as real businesses and drivers of economic development and job creation just like any ‘other’ business. The success of the artisan sector is limited by informal and unstructured markets, this does more harm than good to the economy and shrinks the industry.
If the sector is structured, it can flourish and help economies, both developing and developed economies. According to former U.S. Secretary of State, John Kerry,” If you’re looking for innovative ways to help developing countries flourish, artisans are a terrific place to begin”.
Are you an artisan? In your opinion, what should be done by stakeholders to ensure the artisan sector is built to a sustainable level? Kindly tell us your thought in the comments.
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