Since the beginning of Indego days, it's been our vision to expand our organization beyond Rwanda and into further countries in Africa. Why? Because we are passionate about empowering female artisans across the continent and committed to equipping as many women as possible with the tools and resources they need to achieve their full potential.
However, before we could embark on such an expansion (and do so in a responsible, sustainable way) it was crucial for us to establish a strong foundation in Rwanda—to build out our programs, staff and infrastructure, validate our impact, and develop best practices along the way.
In 2013—with thousands of lessons taught, orders for our artisan partners on the rise, and a strong in-country team in place—we began the first stages of our country expansion due diligence process (much thanks to a grant from the AllPeopleBeHappy Foundation!) We conducted extensive research on ten different African countries, considering a wide range of factors such as infrastructure, governance, levels of corruption, human rights, logistics, pre-existing artisan activity and, most importantly, social impact needs.
We eventually narrowed down our selection to three countries: Ghana, Ethiopia, and Tanzania. It was a tough decision, but in the end we went with Ghana for several key reasons (and Ethiopia and Tanzania aren’t off the table for future expansions!) First, Ghana is a democratic, politically stable country with strong financial institutions, legal frameworks, and ease of doing business—factors which are important as they affect our ability to manage our supply chain, export products, and provide sustainable income for artisans.
Ghana also has a rich cultural tradition of craft-making, with a beautiful range of artisan techniques and products that differ greatly from those we work with in Rwanda—think brightly-woven kente cloth, intricate wood carvings, rustic bolga straw baskets, handmade ceramic beads, and more.
The most compelling reason behind our expansion to Ghana, however, was the deep need for social impact there. While Ghana has a higher GDP than Rwanda, it obscures the vast income inequality that affects the majority of its citizens. In Ghana’s poorest regions, women on average earn less than 50 cents per day, almost 70% are illiterate, and up to 50% have no formal education.
Despite these statistics, Ghana is a highly entrepreneurial country with undeniable dynamism—traveling through its busy streets it feels as though there is hardly anyone who isn’t hustling to make a living by selling some sort of product. While the energy is infectious, the overwhelming prevalence of people selling in the street illustrates the serious challenges that many Ghanaians face—lack of markets to sell their goods and lack of education needed to start and run businesses.
The artisan sector in Ghana is no exception. Despite their incredible talent and skills, local artisans struggle to find customers for their goods and do not earn consistent or sufficient income for their work. We at Indego Africa are committed to changing that!
As of October 2015, we are now partnering with eight artisan groups in Kumasi, the capital of Ghana’s Ashanti Region, to help them improve their livelihoods and succeed as entrepreneurs. We’ve hired two fantastic staff members and are growing our vibrant Ghana product collection (check out the good stuff here.) Our Basic Business Training programs start TODAY, February 2nd, with 50 students participating Tuesday and Thursday (25 students/class) for the next six months.
While our initial programs closely mirror those which have been so successful in Rwanda, it is important to note that, of course, there are some key differences between the two countries that have required us to adjust and recalibrate our model. For example, unlike artisans in Rwanda who almost uniformly work in structured cooperatives, artisans in Ghana tend to operate in loosely-affiliated groups and often work on their own. The artisan sector in Ghana is by and large younger than that of Rwanda and also more male-dominated, as many of the ancient crafts its artisans practice were at one time reserved for the Ashanti king and chiefs—a distinctly male domain.
While we are excited to support these male artisans, we are also fully committed to continuing our founding and driving mission of empowering women. Thus, we will take on a greater advocacy role in Ghana, educating and incentivizing local groups to employ more women, while also facilitating the formation of new women-owned artisan groups. We hope to better integrate women into the artisan sector, which will both increase its productivity and create a powerful multiplier effect across Ghanaian communities (women in the developing world on average invest 90% of their income in their families.)
The artisan sector is, in fact, the second largest employer in the developing world. Yet, despite its potential, the industry remains untapped as a resource for income generation, job creation, and economic growth. We are dedicated to changing this in Ghana, Rwanda, and beyond (!) by providing artisans with the access to markets, vocational training, and education they need to take their businesses to the next level. We hope you’ll stay tuned as we continue this adventure, creating a vibrant and empowering artisan sector for generations to come!
To support our Ghana initiative, please click here.