Africa is known for some of the world’s famous crafts but the industry on the continent has seen little investment over the years. The sector still operates on the subsistence level. It is largely driven by individuals with little economic power and with little or no governmental support.
This is where Mablé Agbodan comes in to not only formalize the sector but also drive investment to the area and also lead the way in the building of institutions for Africa to take advantage of the craft business on the global stage.
Agbodan is the founder of the Craftsmanship Club of Togo, which she created to improve the skills of Togolese artisans to make the sector more competitive and attractive in her country of birth. She started the center from her sister’s veranda, according to Togo First.
Prior to starting her business, Agbodan was based in Europe where she had everything going on well for her. However, she decided to return home to serve, influenced by the mantra, ‘there is no place like home.’ “Well, I always say Europeans built their own place and that it is also up to us Africans, to build our own continent. I would like to contribute to that process,” she told Togo First.
Starting the Craftsmanship Club of Togo did not come easy for Agbodan. She founded the center with the savings she had gathered for over 10 years. In addition, she also got support from the government of Togo.
Agbodan offers high-end products which are directed at a specific social group: football players, designers, and the bourgeois, and her clients are mainly based in Europe. “However, my goal is to sell to people in the African middle class in addition to my actual customers,” she said.
One of the major challenges her craft business faced was pricing, and this made it difficult for locals to purchase her products. She admitted in a recent interview with Togo First that the pricing of her products discourages locals from buying. However, she said she offers quality products that take time to make.
“The thing is, we spend a lot of time making our products. We do not rush. We take time at the stages of conception, design and all the rest,” she said. “That is why our prices are relatively high.”
In the next few years, the Togolese entrepreneur said she wants to upgrade her center into a university where craftsmanship will be taught. Drawing on the inspiration that led her to start her Craftsmanship Club, she expressed optimism about creating an African institute of craftsmanship.
“I started on my sister’s veranda and here I am now. The next step is to build other centers in Kara and Dapaong and create a real training centre for artisans. A place where a certain level of skills would be demanded before admission,” she noted in 2018.