Morocco Artisans Fear ‘Knockout Punch’ From COVID-19

A Moroccan potter works on a wheel at a workshop in the city of Sale, north of the capital Rabat, on June 3, 2020, during the novel coronavirus pandemic. – Artisans in Morocco have been starved of income for almost three months because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The crafts industry represents some seven percent of GDP, with an export turnover last year of nearly 1 billion dirhams ($100 million). FADEL SENNA / AFP.


Pottery, basketwork and wrought-iron furniture pile up in the deserted stalls of the Oulja arts and crafts complex in Sale near the Moroccan capital Rabat.

Artisans have been starved of income for almost three months because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Coronavirus is the knockout punch: without help, without support, our profession will disappear,” said Youssef Rghalmi, a 49-year-old potter.

In the family workshop, where skills have been handed down from generation to generation, the clay has dried up, the oven is turned off and the nine employees no longer turn up for work.

The last order, for a customer from France who called off her visit because of border closures, is gathering dust in a corner.

“We were already struggling to survive because lifestyles have changed,” said Mohamed Touel, a master carver of “gebs” decorative plaster.

“Traditional trades are being lost because young people don’t want to take over.”

The enterprising 62-year-old had added a small restaurant to his shop but it closed because of lockdown measures imposed since mid-March.

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Foreign tourists have vanished, the lockdown has paralysed economic life and local customers “have other priorities”, Ahmed Driouch said in his store cluttered with copper lamps, ceramics, daggers, jewelry, inlaid chests and carpets.

Business has been “two hundred percent affected by the virus”, he said, grimly forecasting it would take “at least two or three years” to return to normal.

-‘Nobody’s coming’-

Upstairs, employees dusted some 10,000 carpets in stock, one by one.

“We must clean everything even if, for now, nobody’s coming,” one of them said ruefully, vacuum cleaner in hand.

Minister of Tourism and Handicrafts Nadia Fettah has proposed ideas such as exhibition spaces in supermarkets to revive a sector that provides employment to two million people.

That includes about 230,000 traditional artisans.

The crafts industry represents around seven percent of GDP, with an export turnover last year of nearly one billion dirhams ($100 million).

Despite their role in the economy, artisans work without social security cover and with a limited distribution network, much of it through word of mouth, like elsewhere in North Africa.

– ‘Don’t know internet’ –

The 30 women who weave rugs for a small cooperative called “Creative Woman” in Sale have all lost their meagre incomes.

Weavers work eight hours a day for barely $100 a month “when the carpets are sold” and they “have nothing left because there has not been a single sale in three months”, explained Rachida Nabati.

The energetic woman in her 40s, who has been a weaver since the age of seven, has been forced to borrow from friends to supplement her modest earnings from a vegetable garden next to her shack.

In the cooperative, some have been bailed out by a state coronavirus emergency fund, while many others “can no longer pay their rent”.

“We have to sell on the internet but we don’t know how to do that,” said the mother who taught herself to read and write.

“A digital platform was launched for artisans a few years ago, but it doesn’t work,” master plasterer Mohamed Touel said.

In Tunisia, the National Office of Handicrafts has been working on an electronic platform for sales in Europe and has organised small exhibitions in hotels.

It also encourages artisans to launch Facebook pages or electronic sites.

But Sabiha, a potter in the Tunisian rural town of Sejnan whose works are on UNESCO’s list of “intangible cultural heritage”, said she cannot “even afford to recharge” her mobile phone.


Oyo Students, Traders, Appeal To Labour To End Strike

Student groups, traders and artisans have joined others in appealing to the labour unions in Oyo State to end the ongoing strike for academic activities in public schools to resume.

A peace rally was organised by several artisan groups and student bodies in Ibadan, the Oyo State capital on Monday.

The aim of the protesters was to sue for continued peace, an end to the ongoing labour strike and garner support for the education policy of government.

Traders, artisans and students in their hundreds converged on the historic Mapo Hill and moved through major streets halting vehicular and human traffic in the process as they sang songs of peace and cooperation in the process.

The crowd moved around from Mapo and ended up at the secretariat where the Governor received them.

Oyo Students, Ajimobi
Governor Abiola Ajimobi addresses crowd of protesters at the state secretariat.

Some of the leaders of groups represented at the rally spoke on the need to eschew violence and appealed to labour to end the ongoing strike.

Addressing the mammoth crowd at the secretariat, the Governor Abiola Ajimobi applauded the peaceful rally and charged them to continue to educate the people about government’s policy especially on education, stating emphatically that no school is up for sale in Oyo State.

Oyo Students, Traders Protest
Protesters moved through major streets halting vehicular and human traffic in the process.

He charged those present to continue to educate the people and shun violence as the brigandage of yesteryear will not be allowed back into the state.

Gov. Ajimobi further appealed to labour to return to work to give room for further dialogue not only on the education policy but to also find ways of addressing the non-payment of salaries of workers.

Labour had held a similar rally on June 16 calling for a reversal of government’s intention to involve the private sector in public school administration in the state.

FG’s N-Power Job Portal Records 400,000 Registrations In 36 Hours

N-power, Job PortalThe newly launched job portal of the Federal Government “N-Power.,” has recorded over 400,000 successful registrations since it opened for submissions on Sunday, June 12, 2016, the Job Creation Unit in the Presidency says.

“We have been very impressed by the enthusiastic response to the call for applications. As at noon on Monday June 13, only 36 hours after the launch of the portal, 403, 528 applicants had successfully registered on the site and were in the middle of completing the application process,” said the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Job Creation, Mr Afolabi Imoukhede.

“We are also very pleased that the registrations have been taking place without any hitches or system failures, considering the volume of response.

“All together the website has received over 35 million hits since Saturday midnight.”

The Jobs Scheme, known as ‘N-Power’, is one of the five initiatives of the Social Investment Programmes of the Federal Government of Nigeria, described by President Muhammadu Buhari in his Democracy Day Speech as “by far the most ambitious social protection programme” in Nigeria’s history.

The Senior Special Assistant, Media and Publicity, in the Office of the Vice President, Laolu Akande, in a statement on Monday, reiterated President Buhari’s promise that the application process would not only be structurally robust, transparent and fair, the selection process that will follow would also be based on objective criteria that has nothing to do with party affiliations.

Unemployed Nigerians both graduate and non-graduates would be drawn from across the country on state-by-state basis in the final analysis.

A total sum of 500 billion Naira has been provided for the programme in the 2016 budget, an unprecedented development in Nigeria’s budget history.

N-Power is designed to help young Nigerians acquire and develop life-long skills to become solution providers in their communities and to become players in the domestic and global markets.

It is expected to provide employment opportunities for 500,000 graduates as teachers, agriculture extension advisers, healthcare assistants, and civic and adult education instructors in communities across Nigeria.

There will also be a pool of 100,000 software developers, hardware service professionals, animators, graphic artists, building services professionals, artisans and others.

Applications for the scheme commenced on Sunday June 12 on the portal after which screening and shortlisting will be carried out.

Abia Artisans Appeal To Government For Infastructure

abia artisans appeal to state governmentThe artisans in Aba, the commercial city of Abia State, have appealed to the State Government to provide infrastructure and create an enabling environment for accessing credit facilities amongst others.

The Southeast Region Artisans, made the call on Sunday.

The shoe making, leather and belt enterprise at Aba, particularly, have employed over 100,000 people including men, women and youths.

However, the business has faced unfavorable conditions that make it unable to produce large quantity of shoes as expected.

At the shoe making clusters at Powerline, Ariaria Market, the artisans design shoes of all types, belts and trunk boxes manually with their hands without any sophisticated machines or equipment.

This method of manufacturing foot wears and other leather artwork has been adjudged to be slow, time consuming and sometimes bring about low productivity.

In the other shoe making sections, the constant noise from the generating set due to inadequate electricity supply, abandoned infrastructures due to flood amongst others have been some of the major impediments to the business.

A recent trip to Turkey to understudy shoe making, according to the artisans, was yet to make an impact as they still worked manually.

Also, at the leather purchasing stores and places where the industrial gum and shoe soles are sold, the high cost of importation, poor road infrastructures are some of the challenges identified.

However, the State Governor, Okezie Ikpeazu, has promised that the government would not relent on its commitment, as it was laying the foundation and putting infrastructure in place to accommodate the new technologies to enhance production.

Governor Ikpeazu said that the administration’s plan was designed to create wealth and enhance the lives of the citizens.

In spite of their challenges, it is estimated that over a million pairs of shoes, packed in sack bags are way billed to other neighboring West African countries, while others are taken to the FCT and other states every month.

Oyo Council Supports Self Help Projects With N50m

Following a mandate by the Oyo State Governor Abiola Ajimobi to the chairmen of all the 33 local government areas in the state to start encouraging self-help projects, the transition chairman of Atiba Local Government, Mr. Akeem  Adeyemi, has launched an empowerment programme to assist artisans and the unemployed.

At the pilot scheme, Mr. Adeyemi explained that self-help projects and well organised artisanship are veritable tools of development and must be strengthened at all levels of governance to encourage communities to be self-reliant and develop in their areas of need.

Mr. Adeyemi stated that the insistence of Governor Ajimobi on the need for human capital development led to the empowerment project in which about N50 million was spent training and equipping 500 individuals cutting across at least 15 artisan associations.

Five hundred unskilled and unemployed youth within the 11 wards of the local government were trained in various skills, and were given cash support of N4 million.

Seminars were also organised on capacity building to prepare them for a life of financial independence.