My mother, in true African form, applauds literally anything I do to anyone who will listen (and sometimes even to those who won’t). She even brags about this blog. But it is evermore appreciated when one of her praise monologues about Blueprint Africa leds me to fantastic people like artisan Happy Ideall, the Technical Director of the Happy Art Academy (HAA) in Accra.
HAA is an artisan training center in the West Legon area of the Ghanaian capital, seeking to reduce unemployment at a time when the youth continue to question their futures. HAA empowers its students to become artrepreneurs by engaging in pottery, wood carving or metal work, basket weaving, horticulture, landscaping and interior design. The school even has courses in the design and fabrication of art tools themselves.
The aim of the center is to develop a new army of artisan SMEs. Happy says “in addition to our skills training activities, the beneficiaries are provided training on entrepreneurship and marketing. We help them to establish simple accounting, management, budget planning and costing systems to increase their ability to undertake market analysis, processing, quality control, packaging and exhibition logistics”. The training center also goes as far as assisting with accessing microcredit facilities from some of the Academy’s donors and supporters which includes a few commercial banks.
HAA stays afloat by having a multi-prong approach to income. “In addition to the income generated from training registrations, as an NGO, we also appeal to individuals, corporations, the donor community, government funds and private companies for financial and technical support”, explains Happy.
Happy, a Bachelors graduate in Ceramics from the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology in Kumasi (KNUST), is responsible for the Academy’s budgeting, coordination, procurement and quality control. He formed the Academy after years of exhibiting his own work because of a desire to give back.
His biggest responsibility however is that of strategic planning. The Academy recently launched the landscaping and interior design consulting services to assist clients with the placement of their accessories in gardens and homes. Further, having principally been focused on sales to individuals, Happy is now taking the Academy in a new strategic direction by trying to sell wholesale. “This has been one of our shortfalls as most people who come to purchase our products over the years have been individuals. We are now seeking to establish business relationships with retail outlets both at home and abroad to help market our products. An order of 1,000 small pieces would take a production and delivery time of around 8 weeks so we feel we can be very competitive in the market.”
This year marks HAA’s 20th Anniversary. Originally called Ceramic Limited, HAA now boasts of a wide-ranging clientele with more than 70% of its students’ products exported to buyers in the UK, Italy and the US. The remaining 30% serves the demand of the West African sub-region as well as that of locals and tourists. Any retailers who like what they see can contact the Academy by phone at +233 0244144746 or contact Happy at email@example.com or his associate Bafour Obour Williams at firstname.lastname@example.org.