Jul 12, 2016
Kenya, a potential apparel sourcing hub
Jul 12, 2016
As production costs rise in Asia, Sub-Saharan Africa offers the last frontier in the search for new apparel sourcing markets. With a strong apparel tradition, a large and entrepreneurial workforce, and an attractive business environment, Kenya is a compelling new sourcing destination for global brands. However, Kenya also has a deep well-spring of talent among fashion designers and small tailors, who can serve both the global, domestic, and regional markets, according to a report titled ‘The Kenyan Textile and Fashion Industry: The role of fashion designers and small tailors in the fiber to fashion value chain.’
The report focuses on how Kenyan designers and factories can capitalize on these opportunities. The study was commissioned by Equity Bank-Kenya, in collaboration with HIVOS and the Association of Fashion Designers of Kenya.
It offers a development strategy and action plan to develop and strengthen an inclusive and sustainable “Fibre to Fashion” (F2F) value chain, in which local fashion designers and small tailors can play a meaningful role on the domestic and global manufacturing and retail scene.
The report has proposed integrating local designers and small tailors into the domestic retail trade, and strengthening the National Fibre to Fashion Value Chain.
It has also proposed the creation of an enabling environment to support the growth and development of MSMEs in the Textile and Clothing sector.
The report proposes strengthening the trade support network through institutional alignment and building capacity of MSMEs to become market ready and export ready.
It has also proposed enhancing the visibility of Kenyan designers and their design capabilities in the country, East Africa and the global markets.
The Textile and Clothing (T&C) sector, although a marginal player in the national economy – contributing just 0.6 per cent to GDP and accounting for only 6 per cent of the manufacturing sector – still earns 7 per cent of total export earnings and holds tremendous economic promise. The Kenya Vision 2030 identified the T&C sector as the driver of Kenyan industrialization.
The sector currently comprises 22 large foreign owned companies operating in the Export Processing Zones (EPZs), 170 medium and large companies, 8 ginneries, 8 spinners, 15 weaving and knitting companies, 9 accessories manufacturers and over 75,000 micro and small companies, including fashion designers and tailoring units. It spans the Fibre to Fashion (F2F) value-chain (cotton cultivation, ginning, spinning, weaving, knitting, dyeing and finishing, garment and accessories manufacturing).
Through its successful “Vijana na Equity” project, Equity Bank identified the potential of local fashion designers and tailoring units to create employment and generate income, thus promoting economic development in Kenya. However, this potential remains largely untapped due to systemic and structural weaknesses of the T&C industry, which, despite its rich history of over 100 years, remains fragmented, uncoordinated and misaligned. The sector is skewed towards cottage industries and low value-addition garment making, with an attendant steady decline in the textile sector.
“To unlock the full potential of the T&C sector with regards to creating jobs, generating incomes, strengthening trade, accelerating technology adoption, attracting investment, and promoting local entrepreneurship, most importantly women and youth entrepreneurs, there is an urgent need to recalibrate the growth strategy from low-value addition to high value-addition, enhancing Kenya’s product offering from Cut, Make and Trim (CMT) to Full Package Service Providers (FPSP) and Original Design Manufacturing (ODM),” says the report.
The report lists 11 points as key challenges to unlocking the full potential of the T&C sector.
Among them are lack of policy coherence and institutional alignment, low level of value addition and a disconnect between the apparel sector and the rest of the value chain segments and supply side constraints with regards to quality and price of fabrics, with focus on afro-centric cloth and garments.
Weak business environment, high cost of production and built-in systemic inefficiencies, lack of market readiness and high cost and difficulties to access credit and finance are also seen as major challenges.
Despite these challenges, the report says the opportunities available to local designers and small tailors, including women entrepreneurs, are substantial on the domestic market as well as in the regional and global market space. “Designers can move out of the “made to measure” to “ready to wear” segment, and also join the mainstream industrial manufacturing to add value to Kenyan exports. They can also tap into the lucrative tourism and corporate wear markets. Small tailors can effectively develop their own networking cluster to avoid competing at the low-end of the market.”
But before Kenya can start on its global ambitions, it needs to modernise its textile machinery and equipment which are old and inefficient. It must also address the quality of yarn and fabrics produced in Kenya which is poor for the world market and mismatch of fabric supply to designers’ needs and requirements and high production costs.
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