On a crowded Nairobi day, at the popular Masaai Market an artist and trader confidently stated “If we can have the exposure of selling [our] things abroad, I think life will be better.”
Hand crafted jewellery, crafts and cultural goods cover the grounds of Nairobi’s Masaai Market. Every day the traders and artisans move to a different location around the city hoping to attract tourists and make a profit. The consensus amongst many traders at the market is that they are now ready to export their uniquely crafted goods and trade with the world. As business men and women, they are keen to get a piece of the pie and are looking to the government to aid them in this endeavour.
“American [tourists] like our stuff...I would love to export…[but] I don’t know the way,” one lady asserted.
Currently the Masaai Market traders lack a direct channel to export their goods, which means they have middlemen buying their goods and then re-selling them abroad. They want to get access to these external markets and gain global exposure.
There is also an awareness that things have not been fair and that the balance of trade must be rectified.
“In supermarkets, we normally [buy] items from their countries, so [when WTO delegates are here) I am expecting them to to promote our items so that we can export our stuff to their countries.. If I gain from them, they [should] gain from me also,” a trader passionately argued.
On a wider level, some feel that Kenya has to take real measures in order to revive the industrial sector and exploit valuable resources. One gentleman stated that Kenya needs to stop relying on imports, arguing that the government should go as far as banning imported goods that can be produced in the country.
The prospect of the 10th Ministerial conference is exciting to traders, having seen their businesses flourish during and after President Obama’s visit. With 7,000 delegates coming in to the country, many have high hopes that their businesses will be positively impacted.
“I think business will be better than it is right now,” a gentleman mulled.
But it’s also an important opportunity for Africa to talk about their concerns. A repeated phrase amongst many Kenyans, both old and young was “we want to change our lives.” The onus is on the WTO African delegations to make this a reality come December 2015.