TRALAC - Trade Law Centre

Botswana: Ignorance of AGOA hurts Ngami weavers

Monday, 05 September 2011

Source: The Monitor (Botswana)

Despite the existence of established trade access to the US under AGOA, basket weavers in Ngamiland - ignorant of the lucrative market in the world's biggest economy - say they are struggling to move their renowned products.

The women basket weavers, whose artistry has put Botswana on the map internationally, have expressed ignorance of AGOA's provisions, while bemoaning the slow death of their businesses.

Ironically, Americans have one of the biggest appetites for local baskets and other Setswana cultural products, meaning AGOA would be a Godsend for the Ngami weavers.

Women in the region have clustered themselves for higher production of baskets and thus greater income generation in areas such as Etsha 6 and Etsha 5. The basket weaving has been a key element of rural poverty reduction, enabling the women to become breadwinners in their own right.

During the recent North West District market day however, weavers told The Monitor that a lack of market was ruining their efforts at thriving businesses. They expressed ignorance about the rich opportunities available under the AGOA opportunity.

"Nobody has told us that," said successive weavers when interviewed during the market day. Thitaku Kushonya, the general manager of Quality Baskets, said the basket industry is suffering from "the gravest lack of markets since the recession." The eleven-year-old company employs more than 450 weavers around Maun.

"A few years ago, we had a thriving international market for our product range but now we have piles of finished baskets stacked high as there is no market," she said.

"Some years back, we were selling more than 250 products monthly but so far this year we are struggling to even sell a hundred."

"We are now battling to pay our employees." According to Kushonya, their major market used to be tourists mainly from various European countries and the US as well, who have since stopped visiting.

"If this AGOA thing you are talking about is anything to go by, there are many baskets in the country to meet that quota," she told The Monitor. Other weavers, Rombe Kethotswe and Lentshaletse Gelemogwe, who sell their products on the streets to passing tourists, echoed concerns about the market decline. "We also have stacks of baskets, some of them created three years ago," they said.

Katenya Pithatho - from Etsha 6-based Ngamiland Basket Weavers Trust - however sang a different tune, saying their baskets are still selling well. She explained that the Trust is only selling to locals who pass through the village.

"Government should help us access international markets. Basket weaving is done mainly by women in rural areas as a way of income generation and government should help us to adopt better marketing methods like setting up websites and branding," she said.

Speaking at a workshop held two weeks before the market day, the Department of International Trade's Botshabelo Mafatlane said Botswana was struggling to meet the annual quota of basketry products exportable to the US under AGOA.

"AGOA affords Botswana exporters duty free access of goods to the US; however there is low or simply no uptake at all by the basket weavers on the treaty.

"More than 6,000 product lines, including baskets, are eligible for export but only the furniture and the clothing industries have thus far benefited from the treaty," he said.

“ Latest AGOA Trade Data currently available on

Click here to view a sector profile of Botswana's bilateral trade with the United States, disaggregated by total exports and imports, AGOA exports and GSP exports.

Other regularly updated trade statistics on include: (click each link to view)

  • AGOA-Beneficiary Countries’ AGOA and GSP Trade Aggregates

  • AGOA Trade by Industry Sector

  • Apparel Trade under AGOA’s Wearing Apparel Provisions

  • Latest Apparel Quotas under AGOA

  • Bilateral Trade Data for all AGOA-eligible countries individually.

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