Ethiopian and Chinese bamboo craftsmen work to develop the untapped potential of Africa’s largest bamboo forests
CRAFTSMANSHIP, it is said, is the art of creating beauty out of something raw - such as rough poles of bamboo. The bamboo is first cut, then measured and drilled. Pieces are attached and screwed together, lacquer is applied and - ta-dah! - in just a few hours, an exquisite bamboo chair has taken shape.
Addisu Hailu is among the appreciative audience of Ethiopian artisans who marvel at the superb skills and speed of their Chinese counterparts - senior bamboo craftsmen from Yiyang in south China’s Hunan Province, a city known as the country’s “bamboo capital.”
“It is quite different from our technique,” said Addisu, the owner of SA Bamboo Manufacturing Plc. based in Addis Ababa, capital of Ethiopia. He used to produce bamboo furniture himself, but decided to suspend production due to the excessive homogeneity of Ethiopia’s bamboo market.
“The design and manufacturing of most bamboo products in Ethiopia are similar. If I can’t do it in a more unique and better way, I would rather quit,” he said. But Addisu says he has now regained confidence in bamboo manufacturing thanks to the Chinese peers he met.
Addisu was among the 41 trainees who took part in the 2017 Training Workshop on Bamboo Cultivation and Utilization, sponsored by the Ministry of Commerce of China and held by the International Network for Bamboo and Rattan (INBAR) and the Ethiopian Federal Micro and Small Enterprise Development Agency (FEMSEDA) in Addis Ababa from June 13 to July 15.
The training focused on bamboo furniture design and production, bamboo protection and other practical technology to promote the sustainable development of Ethiopia’s bamboo industry. The ultimate goal is to help local artisans such as Addisu transform abundant bamboo resources into high-value products.