Direct foreign investments grew in Africa to $56 billion in 2013, according to a 2014 report by the United Nations. A young generation of leaders in South Africa are increasingly committed to growing their economies with textile and clothing-focused industries. Why? Because in recent years, a reduction in bureaucracy has made easier to set up businesses. Also, a higher percentage of national spending has been directed into education and renewable energy. The growing success has been partially due to the support of policy makers; and industry bodies are actively engaging with overseas buyers and potential investors.
30 years ago, African countries were hubs for textile production. But the amount of textiles that could be exported to west became limited after the Multi-Fibre Arrangement expired. With countries like China increasing in the value chain, textile producers are again looking towards Africa.
Because of low wages and power rates, Ethiopia has attracted interest from several international brands and buyers. In Kenya, where the minimum wage is higher than in Bangladesh, local manufacturers have started production for a few key global brands who are also expanding their retail presence to cater to the burgeoning middle class.
Africa’s investment in new technologies still lags behind that of other developing economies. Investments are needed in energy, R&D, technological skills, industrial engineering and lean manufacturing. For instance: while the region has many seaports, it lacks an efficient transportation structure. Until that is rectified, Africa will continue to depend on fabric imports from Asia.
Africa’s challenges can also be seen as growing opportunities. If governments continue to invest in infrastructure and collaborate with one another to become competitive on the global market, Africa’s integration into the global apparel industry will be on trend.