Rwandan crafts people are increasingly valuing their craft work as a credible source of income unlike five years ago when handcraft activities were still only considered as a secondary mean of income. Artisans who now spend most of their time doing this work are appreciating the importance of full time dedication in bringing successful products to the market and thereby increasing their sales. A significant stimulus to devote more time to handcrafting has been the annual Handicraft Excellence Award Program (HEAP) initiated by the Government and now unfolding its third edition.
HEAP is designed to facilitate the identification of talented artisans with high quality products and link the award recipients to local, regional and international buyers. Five handicraft products selected for HEAP 2013 in each District have started now competing at Provincial level and Kigali City and best products will reach the last round of competition, the National level.
During this year’s Handicraft Excellence Award Program, the Ministry of Trade and Industry aims at boosting innovation and creativity within craft players and increasing craft exports through existing Handicraft advertising campaign.
The ongoing event which has started early May 2013 entails three main components including Competitions of craftspeople held at districts level then brought afterwards at national level; Series of seminars related to access to markets, Creativity, Standards and intellectual property rights, taxation law and access to finance organized and chaired by MINICOM, Rwanda Bureau of Standards, RRA and other invitees; and finally, Exhibition in IKAZE warehouse at Saint-Michel of products reaching National level competition.
Based on selection criteria, out of 150 handcraft products selected at District level and which now compete at Provincial level, 10 products will receive the coveted National level awards.
According to the Director of Entrepreneurship Unit at MINICOM, Mrs Kuradusenge Annoncée, eligible products for this 3rd Edition of HEAP have to meet the highest level of craft quality.
“A handicraft product that is granted the “Award of Excellence” meets the highest level of craft quality and is distinguished as a benchmark for craft production”, she highlighted.
Mrs Kuradusenge also emphasized on the selection process: “a designated panel evaluates submissions based on the established criteria, that is “prestige and quality of the product, producer´s professionalism and commitment to produce and sell the product, product whose appearance holds potential for regional and/or international market, attractiveness and functionality of the product and a balanced price-quality relationship including the profitability of the production process”.
HEAP competition is open to individual/cooperative handicraft producers, designers-producers and other legally registered handicraft organizations that produce commercial handmade craft products and are capable of maintaining adequate stock levels to fulfill orders in 5 sub-sectors namely leather products, tailoring, home accessories, jewels, ceramic and pottery.
Experience from first and second HEAP editions has shown that all 30 districts of the country participated to the program. Competitions at district level attracted 700 artisans. Of these, 450 were selected to compete at Provincial level and 75 were selected to compete at national level where 24 were awarded the sought-after prizes. In addition, talented Rwandan artisans (HEAP winners) from all areas of the country with high quality products have been linked to both regional and international markets.
The Ministry of Trade and Industry also supported artisans to establish a permanent showroom (IKAZE Showroom) in Kigali City to market their products that proved particularly useful to Artisans that live in remote areas where one does not always enjoy a viable local handicraft market.