News Ticker

What is the lost Industry?

Since the Industrial revolution in about 1760, the role of people who made products with their skills, traditional and talent, has been blurred. In around 1880 the Arts and Crafts Movement was started. This was to bring the aesthetic back into goods manufactured by the new technologies of the Industrial Revolution. My personal view is that it was an unfortunate name as it caused a huge schism that would play out 138 years later, thousands of kilometers from England in South Africa.

Lets jump forward to South Africa in 1998 where British consultants indulged in the Rainbow Nation through ACTAG (Arts and Culture Task Group) and the CIGS (Cultural Industries Growth Strategy). Essentially this was a scoping what some called the Creative Industries and other called Cultural Industries. Not much came out of this except that craft would be lumped into a group that included, art, music, dance, film, theatre, literature. These would be administered by a sector specific “Council” and these would report into a central “arts Council”. This is how the Arts Council was formed in 1997. Ostensibly the NAC controls the sector through regulating funding. This has been quite controversial, as no policy. The white paper is in its forth draft and is still nowhere in terms of meeting the basic definitions, let alone any strategy.

So in short the macro decision that was taken by the ANC government was to follow the Art route as opposed to other developing countries where the Artisanal sector created hundreds of thousands of jobs. Should the Artisanal sector be successful it would grow into the Manufacturing sector.


  1. Craft as Art, original pieces that are designed and made by named individuals and exhibited on exhibitions in galleries.
  2. Unesco support this notion in terms of preservation of the culture
  3. Craft seems to relate to the market of souvenirs (Travel mometo’s, with a strong link to tourism
  4. This scenario should be the sole domain of the Department of Art and Culture
  5. The market for the products made in this sector, typically have local appeal, namely: tourists
  6. Limited job creation potential


Artisanal Sector

  1. This Artisanal sector is the biggest rural employer in developing countries, bigger than tourism, agriculture and service
  2. ITC (United Nations International Trade Centre) has recognized this potential and has actively supported it for decades
  3. The other term for this sector is; Handicraft, it is the manufacturing of hand-made products for export to suit various markets. Made by artisans in a production line process
  4. This should be the domain of DTI, Dept Small Business, Dept Science and Technology, Dept Higher Education and Dept Labour
  5. The products produces have huge export potential if made well to suit global fashion trends
  6. Massive job creation potential

Manufacturing Sector

  1. The formal manufacturing sector has been declining in the last 20 years.
  2. Should have grown as o markets opened up after isolation
  3. One of the main reasons given by manufacturing enterprises that have closed down, has been labour issues
  4. The other is the imports from China and India
  5. This is clearly the domain of DTI and IDC

This issue has rarely been debated as the so called craft sector is dominated by the DAC and Arts community and thus the enterprise potential has been suppressed, either by design or by default. Either way with the official unemployment rate of 38%, this cannot be allowed to continue.