Ghanas wood furniture industry on the road to revival

Yusif Momeen is a master craftsman in wood furniture manufacturing in the Upper West region.

In years past, he has had challenges in producing knock-down or flat-pack furniture, which entails artistic joinery to assemble and dismantle a piece of furniture.

Today, Yusif says he has acquired new skills and knowledge to produce furniture that can compete with others the world over.

“There is no need for people to travel out of Ghana to China to bring in products,” he said. “Currently I can say the woodworkers have upgraded our knowledge and we know very well that if more support is given to us, we can even do more than what is produced in China”.

The influx of foreign furniture and other wood products into Ghana has compelled many local woodworkers to fold up their businesses.

Imports of furniture are estimated at an annual $60million. The resultant impact is a reduction in the contribution of woodworkers to the country’s economy, especially in job creation, revenue generation and poverty alleviation.

Research indicates the real estate sector has championed the importation of furniture to the neglect of the local industry.

To sustain the industry, the Ministry of Trade and Industry (MOTI) has over the years collaborated with industry players, including the Wood Workers Association of Ghana (WAG), Ghana Timber Millers Organization (GTMO) and the Domestic Lumber Trade Association (DOLTA).

But this has not wholly yielded the needed results, partly based on low patronage which stems from the perception of poor quality of domestically produced products and services.

Woodworkers also have their own challenges, including access to state-of-the-art equipment, access to credit and continuous education and skill training to be abreast with new trends in production.

The Skills Development Fund (SDF) under the Council for Technical and Vocational Education and Training (COTVET) is providing a grant for the skills upgrade.

COTVET has contracted the Forestry Commission Training Centre (FCTC) to train master craftsmen of the Woodworkers Association of Ghana (WAG) across the country.

Yusif is among 800 members of the WAG who have so far been trained in the use appropriate technology, innovation and entrepreneurial skills to improve the quality of their products and compete favorably.

WAG President, Reynolds Debrah, says the beneficiaries are expected to train about 1,600 apprentices at their various workshops.

“Education without skills breeds unemployment and poverty,” he noted. “Students from JHS and SHS should be encouraged to have a vocation; this will reduce the high rate of unemployment in the country”.

The Trade and Industry Ministry has announced a national stakeholder conference on the wood furniture industry with the objective of strengthening the sector for job creation and economic growth.

In line with the Ministry’s “Made-In-Ghana Campaign” initiative, the conference will discuss the development of a three-year action plan to revive the local industry.

“The action plan will result in the achievement of an expanded furniture manufacturing environment with a vibrant employment opportunity of at least 15% to 20% by end of the project,” says the Ministry. “It will also create an entrepreneurial growth with expected increased avenues for businesses and improved networking processes that will reduce the importation of furniture into the country by 15% by the end of the programme”.

The Plan is contained in an overall concept paper which is being developed into a policy. Thematic areas include financing options for growing the local furniture industry; raw materials availability and off-cut utilization-expanding materials sources, capacity building; access to markets; and networking and awareness building.

Partners for the conference include the Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources, the Forestry Commission and the Housing Data Ghana Limited.

For now, the woodworkers want assistance from the Forestry Commission to make legal lumber easily accessible on the domestic market in compliance with the timber legality assurance system (TLAS) of the Voluntary Partnership Agreement between Ghana and the EU.

Story by Kofi Adu Domfeh

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