CONTEXT AND CHALLENGES
Untapped potential at a time when global supply chains are being re-routed
For various African countries, the growing textile and apparel (T&A) sector is a strategic industry in terms of export potential and job creation. Ongoing disruptions caused by the Corona pandemic as well as logistical challenges along supply chains with traditional manufacturing hubs in Asia are key reasons why the textiles and apparel sector in Africa is highlighted. Smaller fashion brands, global players in the textile industry and, in particular, fashion brands interested in sustainable and ethical textile production are now showing increasing interest in Africa. The continent’s key draws are its relative proximity to European and US markets, the availability of local cotton that provides the potential for a complete sustainable vertical value chain, and the vibrant and creative local fashion scenes.
However, to harness the full potential of the T&A sector in African countries, a number of challenges must still be overcome. Key challenges faced by international fashion brands and retailers are the lack of detailed market information on local capacities and difficulties in accessing potential local partners. For small to medium-sized international fashion brands in particular, these challenges represent major barriers to entering African textile markets and, thus, hinder the employment-intensive growth of African manufacturers seeking to increase their exports. Another obstacle is that local T&A manufacturers do not always meet international companies’ requirements in terms of, for example, quality or sustainability certification.
If the potential of Africa’s textile sector is to be unlocked, the challenges faced by both sides of the textile supply chain – the international sourcing managers on the demand side and the local T&A manufacturers on the supply side – need to be addressed simultaneously. This is why Africa FAN supports actors at both ends of the textile supply chain and brings them together to accelerate the formation of long-term business relationships and ultimately creating jobs in African partner countries.
PROJECT APPROACH AND PROJECT GOALS
A comprehensive technical support structure for all levels of the multi-tier textile supply chain
Africa FAN aims to create 600 good jobs in the African T&A sector by 2024. Another focus of its work is to support the growing trend in sustainable and ethical fashion production in Africa.
As part of its matchmaking activity, Africa FAN provides international sourcing managers of fashion brands with profiles of countries’ textile sectors and with company profiles of individual textile manufacturers. The company profiles include information on product types, production capacity, prior export experience and certification as well as information from audits. To give international fashion brands’ sourcing teams a chance to view production facilities in Africa without needing to travel, the Network also offers virtual tours of textile manufacturers’ factories. In addition, the Network offers to support interested buyers in setting up site visits tailored to their own needs, where they can explore sourcing options in partner countries, engage directly with local T&A manufacturers and inspect production facilities and samples in person.
Africa FAN also strengthens capacities on the supplier side, providing local textile manufacturers with technical support on meeting the sustainability and quality requirements for certification by the Alliance for Product Quality in Africa.
STATUS AND OUTLOOK
An expanding network
Since its launch in 2021, Africa FAN has worked with more than 300 international fashion brands and retailers to understand their sourcing interests in and requirements of African suppliers. Detailed information on the production capacity, product categories, equipment and certification of more than 90 manufacturers in Ethiopia, Ghana, Morocco and Senegal has been collected, prepared and made available to international sourcing managers of fashion brands. This database makes it possible to provide customised scouting services, manage the communication about product and pricing information, and facilitate the exchange of technical pack and samples. On the supplier side, a dedicated local support programme has been implemented in Ghana, focusing on production efficiency and environmental sustainability.
Through the Africa FAN network, textile samples were exchanged between Europe and Africa. The first successful business linkage resulted in the launch in April 2022 of a Franco-Ghanaian fashion line under the Panafrica brand, which includes organic cotton T-shirts, jackets and trousers. Looking ahead, Africa FAN will continue to build on its solid base of local information and relationships with international sourcing managers. New virtual factory tours will be created to showcase manufacturers in other of the Network’s countries. The Network itself will also expand, with textile manufacturers in Côte d’Ivoire set to be included.
Africa FAN is implemented by the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH within the framework of the Special Initiative on Training and Job Creation of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) and in partnership with United Nations International Trade Centre (ITC).