Small handicraft big business in Morocco

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afrol News, 6 April - According to new statistics presented by the Moroccan Handicraft Department, handicraft is employing an increased part of the countries population and is becoming one of its principal industries. Handicraft contributed with 19 percent of the Moroccan GDP in year 2000.

According to the Handicraft Department at the Moroccan Ministry of Social Economy, the growing handicraft sector employed some two million Moroccans one year ago, which represents 20 percent of the active population in the country. 

Morocco's handicraft exports stood at US$ 52.58 million (610 million dirhams) in 1999, 'Maghreb Arab Presse' reports. Foreign tourists paid US$ 379.31 million (4.4 billion dirhams) to buy Moroccan handicraft items, putting the sector's contribution to tourism receipts at 23 percent.

A comparison of special interest made by the Department was that between handicraft and agriculture. While agriculture - the backbone of Moroccan employment - kept half of the country's 10-million labour force occupied, 2 million are employed in handicraft. Handicraft however contributed to a significantly greater part of GDP than agriculture; 19 and 16 percent respectively. A majority part of Morocco's agricultural sector however functions within the informal sector.

The numbers also illustrate how Morocco slowly is shifting from a traditional agricultural society into a tourism service economy. Two years ago, the handicraft sector also was assessed to employ 2 million Moroccans, but contributed with only 10 percent to the GDP. Tourism has grown significantly over the last years, while Moroccan handicraft also has started to expand its foreign markets. Germany is the biggest foreign market, forllowed by other European countries.

Moroccan handicraft of special interest are leather-working by the famous Fez and Meknes tanners, metal works (mostly copper), carpets, jewelry, ceramics and many more.

Sources: Based on Moroccan govt, press reports and afrol archives

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