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ACP-EU TBT Programme 067-15 – Promotion of Quality Standards and Certification for Handicrafts from Ghana and Sierra Leone

The overall objective of this project is to promote sustainable development and contribute to poverty eradication through the crafts industry using local resources, skills and expertise, and traditional cultural heritage.  It is part of the ACP-EU TBT Programme, a demand-driven programme funded by the EU on request of the ACP Group of States that assists ACP countries to overcome technical barriers to trade to enhance their competitiveness and export capacities. 

The objective is to identify the key technical challenges to trade for the handicraft value-chain particularly to the EU market, examining EU standards and regulations, certification schemes, cultural or geographic authentication, trademarks, and intellectual property protection, issues that can restrict exports and access to international markets.

In addition, this project has also recognized the market-driven barriers to trade.  logomakr_2nj8l0Ghana is a prime example of having confronted the market-driven barriers to trade.  Once a leading exporting country of handicrafts, the sector has suffered severe loss of market share and many of the most productive enterprises have closed. This is a result of one of the most confounding market-driven barriers to trade, and that is design.  As the trends of the target market change it is difficult for African producers to stay abreast and without continual design renewal the market shifts its interest and is lost.

So this project has found that the key barrier to trade is the need for on-going design inputs as this is what stimulates sales. Then once the market shows interest in the products offered, then it is necessary to address the technical constraints. For the artisanal value chain the most significant challenges are in:

  1. Environmentally sound sourcing of wood and other natural products
  2. Intellectual property and appropriate GI protection
  3. Standardization, particularly in quality assurance and control

Aid to Artisans Ghana (ATAG), the key beneficiary, collaborates with government agencies and works with hundreds of artisans to promote the sustainability of the industry and increase trade and expertise.

The project team consists of Elaine Bellezza, Team Leader and Artisanal Value-Chain Expert, Souheir Nadde-Phlix, Legal Expert, Robert B. Wamala, IT Expert. 



logomakr_0numdoWood Certification:  As wood is under environmental protection, certification is required to source and export certain types of wood. The CITES list indicates the environmental classification of all woods.  Certification is done through the Forestry Commission.  The scientific names for wood and natural products must be used. For details see the Technical Specifications Report and the links below. For greater detail more links are provided in the reports.

Fair Trade Certification: This is an international certification that assures fair wages and labor practices and improved social standards. Generally cooperatives or collectives attain Fair Trade Certification, as the process is often too costly for individual producers.  In Africa Fair Trade has been useful for agriculture. For details see the Technical Specifications Report and the links below.

Legal Protection

logomakr_9mcnglHandicrafts play an essential role in economic development through job creation, and local trade as well as regional and international exports. . The economics of handicrafts can be threatened by imitation, misappropriation and other illicit exploitation of the genuine products at regional and international levels. Protecting handicrafts from misuse and illicit exploitation can be done through Intellectual Property (IP) laws, including sui generis systems, unfair competition law, consumer protection law as well as non-IP laws, such as trade practices and labelling laws, use of contracts, customary and indigenous laws and protocols, cultural heritage preservation laws and programs, common law remedies such as unjust enrichment, rights of publicity, blasphemy, and criminal law.

Intellectual property rights (IPR) include industrial property rights (such as patents, trademarks, industrial designs, geographical indications, trade secrets) and copyright and related rights (known also as neighbouring rights). The protection of handicrafts is not limited to one form of IP. While the external appearance or design of handicrafts can be protected by copyright or industrial designs, their reputation can be subject to protection by trademarks (including collective and certification marks), geographical indications or unfair competition. The know-how or the knowledge used to create the handicrafts can be protected by trade secrets. When the handicraft constitutes or includes an invention, this can then be protected by patent. In case of dishonest or fraudulent practices, the rules on unfair competition are used to restrain any act of competition contrary to honest practices in industrial or commercial matters. See WIPO study on IP and traditional handicrafts.

Ghana is committed to the protection of handicrafts through various legislation including national laws (see below table), IP treaties administered by WIPO, UNESCO administered treaties on culture and copyright as well as regional and trade agreements.  For more information about the national, European and international protection of handicrafts see the “Market Needs Analyses Report”, the presentation on “International and EU Intellectual Property Rules” as well as the WIPO website.



Technical Regulations, Standards and Conformity Assessment Procedures

Since the establishment of the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 1995 and the entry into force of the Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade (the TBT Agreement), WTO member countries, including Ghana and Sierra Leone, are required to ensure that national technical regulations, standards, and conformity assessment procedures do not create unnecessary obstacles to trade. Standards provide specifications and guidelines to ensure that products are fit for their purpose. A standard is a voluntary application however certain standards are compulsory when passed into laws. A technical regulation lays down product characteristics and compliance is mandatory.

The standards that most impact the handicraft value-chain are the ban on toxic chemicals in paints, dyes and stains such as lead and cadmium. Additionally products must follow the EU General Product Safety Directive (GPSD). Less obvious but very important to buyerswam are quality management standards. Very few companies have a solid quality assurance system in place.  Conformity assessment procedures ascertain whether standards and technical regulations are met. They include testing, certification, sampling, inspection evaluation, registration, accreditation and approval. WTO Members may accept results of conformity assessments of other Members, even if procedures differ, provided they offer an equivalent assurance of conformity.

In Ghana, the standards authority (GSA) is a certification and inspection body that works as the secretariat to facilitate the issuance of national standards and the adoption of international standards.