Finding new U.S. Markets for Kenyan Handicrafts

U.S. consumers spend more than $10 billion per year on gifts and decorative accessories. While these gift items and decorative accessories are sourced from every region of the world, China and India capture the lion’s share of the market due to their low prices, locally available raw materials, and ability to respond quickly and in adequate quantities to demand from the U.S. market.

Encouraged by the preferential access accorded to a wide variety of African products under AGOA (the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act), many African artisans and exporters of African crafts are beginning to investigate the crafts market in the United States. The traditional market for their goods has been Europe, especially France and Germany. Unique crafts such as telephone wire baskets from South Africa, glass from Ghana, raffia tabletop items from Madagascar and mohair shawls from Swaziland are now being seen on the U.S. market in specialty stores. Certain large retailers such as TJ Maxx are also beginning to carry African crafts.


Understanding AGOA Handicrafts Restrictions

1. Most Kenyan handicraft products fall under Category 9 of African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), which includes textiles and folkloric products.
2. Category 9 products have to keep within very specific standards. While keeping up with fashion, trends, and taste is encouraged, if products become too complicated to make, they may not qualify as Category 9 and subsequently require a duty.
3. Getting Category 9 Certification can be stressful if care is not taken. The first step in getting certification is confirming that the Sub- Saharan African country you are exporting from is one of the 37 current members of AGOA. Kenya is. Check AGOA’s website (www.agoa.gov) for an up-to-date list. Recent changes in the list have included the addition of Angola and the removal of the Central African Republic and Eritrea from the eligibility list.
4. Once you’re sure the country is covered, begin to make a product list. There are three subdivisions under Category 9:

• Handwoven textiles (such as kente and adinkra cloth),
• Handmade articles from hand loomed fabric (such as garments, purses, hats), and
• Folkloric articles (such as arkilla, a hand-woven wedding blanket).

Folkloric articles are generally apparel, apparel accessories, or decorative furnishings. The shape and design and use of traditional folkloric articles must be traditionally and historically from the submitting country. The items may not be composed of modern features such as zippers and elastic, elasticized fabric, hook and pile fasteners, or Velcro. Modern designs or motifs (such as an airplane) are also prohibited under this subcategory. Each item must be uniquely traditional and historical in nature.

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