Skander Negasi, president of EATAC, East Africa Textile And Apparel Center, a newly founded umbrella association of the local apparel and textile industry based in Nairobi, has explained The SPIN OFF, gave an outlook about the state-of -the-art of the Eastern African apparel and textile industry.
Skander Negasi, president, president of EATAC, East Africa Textile And Apparel Center
Photo: EATAC
Skander Negasi, president, president of EATAC, East Africa Textile And Apparel Center
What textile industries exist in Eastern Africa?
In East Africa (especially in Mauritius, Madagascar, Kenya, Ethiopia, Uganda and Rwanda) there are textile, garment and denim manufacturers. Differently, in Kenya and Mauritius they can produce textiles and apparel for the entire value chain, while in countries like Ethiopia they are specialised in producing garments and denim pieces.

 



For what companies and brands do they produce?
The East African countries produce for a good majority of European and US brands like, for instance, Ralph Lauren, H&M, and others, as well as for major retail chains including, Walmart, Tchibo and KIK, just to name a few ones.

 



While some countries, like for instance, Kenya and Mauritius, produce for the US market due to huge benefits from AGOA (African Growth and Opportunity Acts) agreements.

 



What products do they manufactured in the continent?
East African manufacturers can produce all products, from high-end clothes, including designer suits, to leisure or sport outfits, along with kidswear, menswear and womenswear.




 

Do they produce according to specific standards or certifications?
Most of East African countries who produce and export to European and US markets follow the standards set by highest and up-to-date certification like ISO 9001, WRAP, GOTS, Fairtrade, OEKO-TEX, OCS and others. But this also depends on the factory and requests of the clients they are selling to.




Are there also local brands?
Of course. African people are known for being creative and wearing local designs or brands. Among most popular ones there are Coco Millen from Mauritius, Anyango Mpinga or Katungulu Mwendwa from Kenya, Genet or Mafi from Ethiopia. There are many local brands not only from East Africa, but from the entire African continent.

 



Who is working in these industries? Are workers treated fairly?
In the competitive world of the textile and garment manufacturing, production costs play a significant role. East African manufacturers are competitive due to the low costs (compared with Asian factories), quality and logistics. The majority of workers of most East African factories are women.

A worker of an African textile company
Photo: EATAC
A worker of an African textile company
In Africa, women play an important role for the family. They call them the “stable anchor”. Due to the East African culture, the factory is not the focus of most workers but the family. Therefore, workers always try to reach a balance between both spheres. The East African governments make sure that the conditions are fair for their people, hence you might find sometimes cases when a foreign factory, for instance, FDI, has been banned from the country due to non-compliance with the fair rules or mistreating workers.   



What are the strongest advantages of producing there?
The main advantages are low costs, easy logistics and the fair working conditions within this industry. In addition, the support of women working in the factories is high.

 



Today, most European buyers want to know more about factory working conditions of the items they buy. Other than that, East African factories use the high-end European machinery in their factories.

 




What problems and difficulties can be experienced by sourcing here?
Among challenges, there can be issues about transportation though road and sea, but, so far, most of the factories have been able to find solutions for every challenge.

 



Had the local industry to face pandemic? Was it hit strongly?
The textile and garment industry was hit hard by the pandemic, as most of their foreign clients in Europe and USA had to close their shops and so could not order for more than a year. Thankfully, due to the ongoing business in Africa, most of the factories were delivering within the continent. The Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement will also help the industry for the future as well.

 



How is Covid now? Is or was population struck strongly?
Covid does not play a significant role in Africa anymore. Its consequences were not as high as assumed by European experts.




 

Africa has come out as the strongest continent of the pandemic. Their concept of keeping everything open but serious control of people, disinfection, the use of face masks and controlled opening hours was successful. Companies who depended on export or worked with foreign companies were hit most. The ones who worked with African clients could manage the situation better.

 

 




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