Part of Africa Foundation’s rural businesses and entrepreneurship initiative is the support of craft markets situated in the communities in which we work. These markets create and sell high quality souvenirs including crafts and jewellery to tourists visiting the conservation areas around which the markets are positioned. Africa Foundation provides support to these rural businesses, in partnership with Global Gift Innovators (GGI), by facilitating infrastructure development, helping crafters to develop their product quality and range, and supporting financial and business literacy, to ultimately attract a variety of customers.While these training programmes have been an undeniable success, improving the quality of products and the business acumen of the crafters, the markets remained dependent on the tourism industry to sell their goods. COVID-19 travel restrictions and the subsequent closure of the tourist sector have therefore denied thecraft markets a customer base, leaving them unable to generate any income. Africa Foundation’s goal has always been to empower businesses to function independently, ultimately encouraging sustainable community development. COVID-19 however, brought unprecedented challenges never before seen by rural businesses reliant on tourism. In this context it was imperative for Africa Foundation and Global Gift Innovators to provide additional support to prevent irreversible to the craft markets. At the beginning of May a re-pivoting strategy was implemented. The goal was to increase the markets that the crafters could sell to, effectively replacing lost trade. A two-pronged approach was developed:
- Assistance was given to three craft markets – collectively called ‘Lala Africa’– to open an online shop that would enable them to continue to sell products despite the travel restrictions. Website construction for Lala Africa (lalaafrica.shop) is well underway and will launch later this month with 150 unique handcrafted products from the three craft markets .
- An intensive training plan was developed in order to diversify the product ranges that the crafters made, to produce goods valuable to the local, non-tourist market. The most obvious new product line was cloth facemasks, tapping into a newly created market and an urgent global need for these items.Training on sewing machines was provided at Ku-Humelela craft market, as soon as lockdown restrictions allowed. Imparting the skills and knowledge to begin to make cloth facemasks, and fabric shopper bags.