The Handicraft and Wood Industry Association of Ho Chi Minh City (HAWA) is the primary beneficiary of a CTIF technical assistance mandate focused on building resilient e-commerce enterprises in the Asia Pacific region in response to the global COVID-19 pandemic.
Established in 1991, HAWA is a well-established NGO and association with over 500 micro-, small- and medium-sized enterprise (MSME) members in the fields of wood processing, indoor and outdoor furniture, handicraft, woodworking, and trading and services, approximately one-third of which are led by women. HAWA currently operates a beta version of its HAWA Online Platform for Exhibition (HOPE) to connect its members with buyers.
CTIF’s technical assistance to HAWA will include improvements to the HOPE site, training and development of professional communications materials to promote and guide potential buyers on the features of HOPE, and promotion of HOPE to potential Canadian buyers.
Problem Being Addressed by CTIF
Just like in most countries, exporting businesses across Vietnam have faced serious revenue and cashflow challenges as a result of the drop in trade associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. According to HAWA’s research among its MSME members, more than 80% of existing international orders were delayed or cancelled, amounting to over USD 100 million in losses. 51% of these companies are now out of business or are downsizing, and about 45% of workers in this industry are estimated to have lost their jobs.
Due to these circumstances, HAWA is looking at using the HOPE platform as a substitute for the traditional in-person trade fairs and exhibitions where international buyers and sellers have typically met. CTIF’s technical assistance hopes to support HAWA in maximizing HOPE’s potential as the virtual gateway to the Vietnam furniture industry, connecting Vietnamese SMEs with current and new international buyers.
Vietnam’s wood, furniture, and handicraft sectors are considered creative industries. These creative industries provide opportunities for MSMEs and therefore support both women’s economic empowerment and poverty reduction. More than 1/3 of its member MSMEs are led by women, over half of the team behind HOPE is female, and HAWA’s advisory board consists of well-respected women leaders who play key roles in designing, planning, and implementing the HOPE platform.
Environmental sustainability is also a crucial criterion for importing and exporting wood and wood products. It is note-worthy that many furniture members of HAWA already comply with important legal timber certification requirements required by their international customers, and that HAWA requires all members to use legally sourced timber prior to joining.