7-8 JUNE 2017 / Tour & Taxis / Brussels

Artisans & Migrants: An Opportunity for Job creation and Sustainable Development

Artisans & Migrants: An Opportunity for Job creation and Sustainable Development

The potential of integrating migrant & artisan populations into the development of sustainable value chains and quality manufacturing

Thursday, June 8, 2017 - 09:00 to 10:15

Key points

  • It is possible to do good while doing business but for this we need to overcome the traditional separation between the private and public sector.
  • It is wrong to think that there are only lowly skilled individuals at the bottom of the pyramid.
  • There is great job creation potential in some of the poorest regions of the world and tapping into this is a good way to fight illegal immigration.
  • Equipping artisans with computers is one way to ensure competitiveness.


The International Trade Centre’s Ethical Fashion Initiative was launched 10 years ago in a slum in Nairobi, Kenya. The idea was to enable artisans to become suppliers to the international fashion industry. The initiative aimed to put into practice the concept of ‘conscious capitalism’ and to enable migrants and potential migrants to become artisans, have a job, status and no longer feel the need to emigrate.

Burkina Faso realised early on that developing the textile industry and crafts could do wonders not only for the empowerment of women, but also for the economy in general and has been working closely with the initiative. Burkina Faso wants its citizens to realise that staying in Africa is the only way to be truly free.

Another partner of the Ethical Fashion Initiative is the Lai-momo centre for refugees in Bologna, Italy. In July 2016, Lai-momo went from being a reception centre for asylum seekers to a vocational training and work centre. Eighteen people have since been trained in the textile sector and are about to be hired by the Italian Fendi fashion house.

However, this success should not hide the fact that the process is difficult. When people arrive at the Lai-momo centre they are paperless and waiting to hear whether they will be able to stay or be sent home. The centre must therefore ensure the people they train can thrive in either situation.

For the European Commission, initiatives like these are encouraging, but they must not obscure the fact that these artisans must be able to compete on the global market. Finding the artisans is easy but ensuring that they are competitive and can make a decent living in the long run is not.  It is also important not only to give jobs to people, but also to give them the motivation to remain in their country and not risk a miserable and perilous life elsewhere.

Having seen how successful this initiative has been, the European Commission is now keen to expand it to other sectors like furniture and even food, based on the slow food experience in Europe. One thing is sure, artisans need to move with their time and work with technology to be as competitive as possible.

The market also has to be factored in. It is not enough to make good products; they must sell too. Previously, supply and demand was rarely taken into account. This needs to change. Efforts are needed to structure the value chain and this starts with working with the buyer rather than flooding the market with products for which there is no demand.

Artisans must also step up their game and developing countries must structure the qualification system and provide adequate and recognised training to ensure artisans are able to produce enough good-quality products.


One panellist talked about his life since he arrived in Italy as a migrant from Burkina Faso some 20 years ago. Madi Sakande is now an entrepreneur specialised in air conditioning and refrigeration, and he plans to use his experience in Africa. Some 70 % of all agricultural products in Sub-Saharan Africa are lost because of the absence of cold-chain options. His idea is to create stand-alone cold-storage rooms powered by solar energy and export them to Africa.

Organised by

    Simone Cipriani
    Chief Technical Advisor
    Ethical Fashion Initiative
    Tahirou Barry
    Minister of Culture
    Burkina Faso
    Chayet Chienin
    Founder & Editor-in-chief
    Nothing but the Wax
    Madi Sakande
    General Manager & Co-partner
    New Cold System s.r.l.
    Andrea Marchesini
    Stefano Manservisi
    Director General
    European Commission - DG for International Cooperation and Development
Photo gallery

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