AfCFTA Africa Conference Industry Tanzania Woman

Origin Africa: promoting textiles and apparel made in Africa

Origin Africa” is an annual event, organized by ACTIF (African Cotton and Textile Industries Federation) to promote the textile and apparel sectors in Africa. Every year it is organized by a different hosting Country and this year, for its tenth edition, it was organised in Tanzania from the 28th to the 30th of October.

Following, some of the main issues highlighted during the conference.

The textile and apparel sectors are surely among the major opportunities to create wealth and jobs in the continent. The global market, in fact, is evaluated to be around 1.8 trillion dollars, with Europe as leader consuming market. While in the early eighties the production was delocalized from west to east, currently the producers are searching for new countries where to expand.

Moreover, although China, India and Bangladesh still remain the hugest exporters, their export market share is decreasing due to the highest labor costs, the increasing local demand and the duties-issues between China and the USA.

The textile and apparel sectors are an opportunity for the African countries, also because a non-industrial production can be launched with a not too huge capital, it is scalable and has a high added value. The last part of the value chain (the cloths production) is the one adding the highest value, so producers shall work to start-up and launch on the market new local brands.

The major difficulties that local producers declare to have are the struggle to work with big quantities and with economies of scale, the lack of a consistent and sustainable production process, the presence of too many small actors (the production is small and fragmented) and the absence of an integrated value chain. In these last years the environmental and social impact of the industry has gained more and more importance for the final consumers. The use of organic certified fibers, in fact, has significantly increased, but in the continent there are not yet substantial numbers (currently in Tanzania there are three companies producing organic certified cotton).

Other important food for thoughts come out during these days are: the need of giving more space and visibility (not only locally, but at a regional, continental and international level) to local designers as well as the need to integrate the various countries and the various actors involved into the production process.

Many where the high-value panelists hosted, but I would surely like to name two of them:

  • Mariama Camara, founder of Mariama Fashion Production, company operating between New York (where she has been living for the past eighteen years) and Guinea (her Country of origin). Mariama has a refined production with its own niche market and she mainly uses natural dyes obtained from local plants, flowers, spices and fruits and vegetable waste.
  • Sam Mensah, from Ghana but living in South Africa, who has founded Kisua, a company positioning itself as the Zara of Africa. Kisua greatest added value is to produce and sell mid-class outfits, completely made in Africa, from design to sale.

Origin Africa was also complementing the conference and seminaries with a small exhibition for producers, 90% of which were Tanzanian. Following, some few personal considerations:

  • Almost all the products were made out of kitenge and wax (trend seen at every fair and event), but maybe the only use of these fabrics may become a limitation, thinking to a brand that wants to make casual ready-to-wear outfits for everyday or thinking to a global market.
  • Producers shall invest more in learning how to best display products during an exhibition.
  • I have sadly realized that some artisans do not really know the high value of their products for the consumers: I have found very beautifully hand-woven fabrics sold at a too low price.

Other interesting news arisen during the conference and concerning companies operating in Tanzania is that the Country is trying its best to support producers to access to global market. Currently in fact, all the certificates of origin (necessary to export any kind of locally produced good) can be issued online, through a specific portal managed by the Chamber of Commerce (although the final certificate still needs to be collected physically). And, in the next few days, it will be launched NFLIP (National Freight and Logistic Information Portal), an online portal to collect information and directly contact companies operating in the sectors of transport, logistics and clearing & forwarding.

Lorenza Marzo is a Tanzania based freelance consultant, Founder Wana-WAKE-UP! You can follow her on Facebook and Instagram

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