Top African festival showcases Eswatini artisans and small businesses

21 June 2024
ITC News

The Kingdom of Eswatini is repositioning its food, deco and tourism scene by investing in its community of artisans and small entrepreneurs – and isn’t being shy about it.

The MTN Bushfire Festival in Eswatini brings over 20,000 attendees from all over Africa and the world to Eswatini, affectionately called ‘kaGogo’ by the locals. Earlier this month, its 17th edition brought together musicians, artists, creative food brands and designers from across sectors in a celebration of African culture and entrepreneurship.

The festival runs on a powerful sense of community, and a rigorous selection of the best Eswatini has to offer.

Selected artisans and entrepreneurs took to the stands for the third time this year through the programme called: Eswatini: Promoting growth through competitive alliances. The programme was co-created by the European Union and the Alliances for Action initiative at the International Trade Centre (ITC). These small businesses, supported by the EU and ITC, showcased an impressive range of local products, from accessories to beverages.

Members of the programme’s House on Fire Artisanal Incubator, known as ‘Future Icons’, showcased their wares, projects and plans for the future. Amongst them were women artisanal cooperatives Siyaphambili and Indzaba Yami, and the Vukani BoMake Project, who shared their sustainable textile products and stories.

‘MSMEs are major drivers of innovation,’ said EU Head of Cooperation, Eva-Maria Engdahl.

‘They bring innovative solutions to challenges like climate change and social cohesion and can help spread this innovation throughout Eswatini. That’s why the EU is working with the ITC, Eswatini Government, and House on Fire to support different types of MSMEs at different stages of growth to try and help them to maximize their potential.’

Popular local food brand Black Mamba used the festival as a platform to launch their latest product called Lishisa – a spicy tomato relish crafted in Eswatini – that caught the attention of ITC Director, Division of Country Programmes Ashish Shah, who visited the festival.

‘The entrepreneurs I engaged with today showcased incredible potential,’ he said. ‘Their creativity and drive to succeed were truly inspiring. They clearly understand the essence of successful business practices. Our mission is to support their journey.’

On the accessory side, Indigenous Africana showcased bags, hats, and other accessories. With support from the programme, the brand aims to expand into homeware and the interior decoration space.

‘I use my craft to educate people about the African narrative, to showcase that we can still embrace our African heritage while living in the modern world,’ said Phila Nkhambule, founder of the brand.

‘My designs are contemporary yet rooted in tradition, proving that you don’t have to look ancient to celebrate your culture. We can honor our roots while moving forward with fashion.’

Many more entrepreneurs from the ITC-EU programme and beyond impressed crowds with the best of African products – a fusion of high quality, artisan processes, sustainable goals and ‘made in Africa’ ethos.

The entrepreneurs shared their transformative journey, highlighting significant improvements in branding, product development, and market engagement since joining the programme. They also noted that major trade platforms like the MTN Bushfire Festival help them boost sales and provide valuable networking opportunities.


About the Project

The ITC-Alliances for Action project 'Eswatini: Promoting growth through competitive alliances II', funded by the EU, supports job creation for small farmers, entrepreneurs and artisans. Eswatini offers the global market unique organic produce, artisan roasted coffee, handmade cultural creations and gourmet condiment lines.

ITC works closely with smallholder farmers, agro-processors and artisans in Eswatini to support them in ways that are sustainable and benefit both people and the planet. In this way, ITC fosters and preserves cultural heritage, and draws on artisan skills and concepts of green growth. 

Alliances for Action is an ITC initiative that seeks to transform food systems through producer partnerships that cultivate ethical, climate- smart, sustainable agricultural value chains.