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IFC and Maldives Chamber to Grow Local Craft Industry, Enhance Incomes of Small Entrepreneurs


IFC, a member of the World Bank Group, and the Women Entrepreneurs Council, operating under the aegis of the Maldives National Chamber of Commerce and Industry, have partnered to develop linkages between the tourism industry and local small and medium businesses that focus on the handicraft industry.

A memorandum of understanding and cooperation agreement between IFC Advisory Services in the region – the SouthAsia Enterprise Development Facility – and the Women Entrepreneurs Council to start operations on this project was signed as part of IFC’s initiative to improve the country’s business environment and enhance the capacity of its small and medium enterprises. IFC and the council will share project costs.

Shaira Saleem, Chairperson of the Women Entrepreneurs Council, explained, “Handicraft is an ideal income-generating activity for people from the islands. This is a priority area for us. We are pleased that IFC has recognized the importance of linking the two sectors and decided to support the project.”

Gilles Galludec, IFC Country Manager for Sri Lanka and Maldives, who signed the agreement, said, “The overall objective of the program is to build linkages between the tourism industry and local communities. We hope that this initiative is the first of many such activities going forward.” Holiday resorts in Maldives will have the ability to build sustainable relationships with local communities and businesses and offer resorts’ guests a chance to experience the ‘Maldivian way of life’, he added.

Tourism is a key sector for the Maldivian economy, and handicrafts have a ready market. Currently, the country’s ‘one island, one resort’ model limits interaction between the resorts and the rest of the economy. This has led to very little interaction between tourists and local culture.

IFC will support the handicraft industry, providing workers with a chance to earn appropriate and justified income for their work. This activity is part of a wider linkage program to be carried out in the country’s tourism sector. IFC is also looking into building agricultural linkages between resorts and nearby communities.

The council’s ‘Blending Handicrafts and Tourism’ initiative will help craft workers develop viable business opportunities and build linkages between holiday resorts and local communities and businesses. It will also broaden awareness about Maldivian culture and crafts. With as many as 90 per cent of handicrafts sold in Maldives imported from other cheaper sources today, the program aims to promote the authenticity of local crafts with the help of linkages between tourism and handicraft industries.


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