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EFF SOURCE Fashion business success without compromise

1 January 2010

Africa

Contributor Ethical Fashion Forum

africa / kenya


Trade in fashion products provides key opportunities for communities in Africa. Fashion is labour intensive, requires limited capital input, and with good design, traditional skills bring a high premium.


Contents

1. Introduction
2. The garment industry in Africa
3. Africa and the global market
4. Summary
5. The Future
6. Useful Links
7. References

1. Introduction

Trade in fashion products provides key opportunities for communities in Africa. Fashion is labour intensive, requires limited capital input, and with good design, traditional skills bring a high premium.

Although African made fashion is a growing industry, competition from China has caused the textile manufacturing sector to shrink over the past 30 years. Cast-off clothing sent from western countires and sold in markets means local tailors are unable to compete on price points, while power shortages make it impossible for factories to produce enough goods to satisfy global demand.

2. The garment industry in Africa

African designed and made fashion would seem to be a growing industry. Growing middle class communities with the spending power to buy more than the basic necessities are beginning to invest in fashion. Major fashion hubs in Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya and South Africa supplement the steady year-on-year growth of their countries’ GDP.

5% GDP lost each year by Sub-Saharan Africa through shrinking trade income

This is in contrast to the region; Sub-Saharan Africa loses about 5% of GDP through shrinking trade income. This represents $28.4 billion annually, a figure that exceeded total aid flows and debt relief to the region in 2003. (UN Human Development Report, 2006)

The best way to improve the economy is through trade. While there is development in this area, with producers such as SOKO Kenya- manufacturing garments for western retailers, the industry in general has taken a hit.

Africa is the destination for textiles cast-offs from western markets- huge bails of unsold donated clothing are sent to Africa to be sold in markets. While this provides locals with clothing at low prices “The local textiles industry seems to be suffering, as more and more people buy these imported goods” (Cooper, 2011)

However, opportunities exist for African fashion businesses to successfully compete in a lucrative international market for fashion. Statistics show that every job in the garment sector in Kenya generates 5 other jobs.

In Lesotho, thanks to the apparel industry (representing 94% of merchandise exports) GDP per capita increased from $558 in 2001 to $3000 in 2004. (EFF, 2011) These figures show the healing power of fashion to the economy. While it may be difficult to sell African-made clothing to Africans, the international marketplace offers new opportunities for african designers, tailors and seamstresses to sell their products.

3. Africa and the global market

Unfortunately there can be difficult technical and logistical issues facing those brands that wish to manufacture in Africa. Power shortages in Nigeria and other countries are a major problem, limiting industry capabilities and making it impossible for the country to produce clothing fast enough to meet global demands.

According to Ronke Ademiluyi, founder of Africa Fashion Week London “One of the major challenges in Nigeria and a few other countries is unstable electricity, and no support from the government. Our designers also need better business acumen to turn their creative ideas into a business.” (Epum, 2011)

Nigeria’s once rich textile industry has experienced extensive decline over the past decade. When China began to out-compete other nations as a producer of textiles and clothing Nigeria’s industry took a heavy hit. “In 1980, Nigeria’s textile industry boasted over 175 textile factories (most of which were vertically-integrated), but today only about 25 are still in production.” (Ditty, 2011)

In 2010 the Nigerian Federal Ministry of Finance set up the Cotton, Textile and Garment Development Fund worth $64 billion USD. The fund aims to aid the expansion, refurbishment, resuscitation and modernisation of existing textiles and the ginning and cultivation of cotton.

The government also extended a number of incentives to investment in agriculture and agricultural processing. These include tax holidays, the granting of loan facilities, provision of infrastructure such as roads, electricity, water and telecommunications.” (Ditty, 2011)

4. Summary

Africa is in need of trade to remedy its shrinking GDP but electrical shortages in countries like Nigeria cause major obstacles to businesses, incapacitating factories and making them unable to meet supply demands.

Clothes sent from the west to market in African towns and cities impacts upon tailors. Africans are adopting western clothing styles and traditional African clothing is becoming occasion wear. The local tailors are getting less work because of this.

5. The Future

Although financial aid is sent to Africa the only sustainable solution to issues of debt and shrinking GDP in countries across the continent is business. The growing middle class means some African countries are becoming more viable areas for companies to trade in and it’s hopeful that the increase in trade will improve the overall economic situation.

African Fashion is flourishing globally and ‘African Fashion Week’ is now an event at all major fashion weeks, with African designers being showcased in London, Paris and New York. Although still establishing a place in the global fashion market, there is hope that emerging designers and brands from Nigeria and other African countries will help to revitalise the textil industry in Africa, creating much needed economic growth.

6. Useful Links

Download : ‘Africa and Fashion: Challenges and Opportunities’

‘Made in Africa Foundation’

SOKO Kenya’

7. References

Cooper, L. 2011 ‘Second-Hand’ Africa

Ditty, S 2011 African Fashion- An introduction to recent developments

Ethical Fashion Forum 2011 Africa and Fashion: Challenges and Opportunities

Epum, K. 2011 The challenges facing African designers

United Nations 2006 Human Development Report 2006 – Beyond scarcity: Power, poverty and the global water crisis


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