Posted by: Agence Tunis Afrique Presse

Three memoranda of understanding worth $1.5 million (3.63 MTD) aimed to scale up Tunisia-US handicrafts cooperation were signed Friday by the National Handicrafts Board (French: ONA), the US State Department represented by the International Institute for Human Development (IDH) and the FHI 360 (formerly Family Health International), as well as the American Chamber of Commerce in Tunisia (AmCham Tunisia).

These agreements, signed as part of the 35th edition of the Handicrafts Fair (April 26 -May 5), fit within the US strategy of cooperation with Tunisia for the next five years, particularly that this sector is a priority for the US Administration, said U.S. Ambassador to Tunisia Daniel Rubinstein.

This partnership will ensure the competitiveness of Tunisian firms in the USA, he said as he commended a bilateral cooperation premised on good governance.

The first memorandum, inked by ONA Director-General Faouzi Ben Halima and IDH President, seeks to fund the export capacity-building project (Cap-X). About 450,000 dollars (1.089 MTD) were allocated to this project which eyes a better sales and investment capacity in the USA as well as an enhanced productivity in the handicrafts sector, said Project Coordinator Meriem El Mechti.

“This 18-month project is geared towards 50 artisans and craft businesses across the country in pottery and ceramics, vegetal fibers, blown glass, mosaics, fabric (fouta, scarves, hayek),” she said.

The development of products is the centrepiece of this project launched last October; training sessions are scheduled to improve quality and design and build marketing and export capacities.

The second MoU provides for financing the Collaborative Action for Craft Sector Exports project. Nearly

817,000 dollars (1. 977 MTD) in funding were made available to increase the competitiveness of the value chain of essential oils and other natural extracts in northwestern Tunisia (Jendouba, Kef, Siliana and Béja), said Project Director Karim Chabi. This project (October 2017- March 2018) targets 90 recipients, notably craftswomen.

Export Lab project is at the heart of the third agreement signed by ONA and AmCham and worth about 70 thousand dollars (169, 4 thousand dinars). The project provides for services of business incubation, market intelligence and monitoring for craft enterprises through an export platform and guide.

AmCham representative said fifteen businesses in Sfax, Tunis and Ksar Helal will receive assistance to develop their exportation plans, seek certifications, find partners and sign agreements with American organisations to strengthen their export capacity and organise trade fairs and B2B meetings.

Ben Hlima said these three projects are intended to help position handicraft products in the USA by means of securing a better quality, adjusting products to meet the needs of consumers and increasing exports.