Second-Hand Clothing is a Killer of African Manufacturing and Jobs

The Africa Sourcing and Fashion Week is Africa's largest trade show for fashion, sustainability and innovation. Here, Africa's fashion and manufacturing industry meets international investors and brands. In a run up to the eighth edition which gets under way on 4 November, Skander Negasi, Chief Executive Officer of organiser Trade and Fairs Consulting GmbH, speaks about prospects, problems and mitumba.

Long Story, Cut Short
  • African governments are trying to find solutions to get easy investment and trade within the continent.
  • ASFW supports African designers through a programme called ‘Walk for Business – WfB’.
  • In the near future Africans will export its own designs and brands internationally and also within Africa.
A triangle between designers, sourcing companies and manufacturers, the ‘Walk for Business – WfB’ is a unique concept in Africa.  If buyers want to order a big amount from the designers, the Africa Sourcing and Fashion Week ensures that local manufacturers assist in producing a larger amount on behalf of the designer.
Business of Design A triangle between designers, sourcing companies and manufacturers, the ‘Walk for Business – WfB’ is a unique concept in Africa. If buyers want to order a big amount from the designers, the Africa Sourcing and Fashion Week ensures that local manufacturers assist in producing a larger amount on behalf of the designer. Africa Sourcing and Fashion Week

Seven years is too short a span to judge many things, especially an event of this kind. But still enough—given that so many things have changed the world over in the last few years—in what ways and how exactly do you think the Africa Sourcing and Fashion Week (ASFW) has grown?
ASFW has grown from 50 exhibitors to 250-300 exhibitors today. The number of trade buyers has grown from only 500 people to 4,500 trade buyers (from over 50 countries) today. ASFW has created over 50.000 new jobs within the African garment industry in the past years.  

Africa is huge and varied. By extension, the ASFW is spread across a huge canvas. How have you—over the years—gone about what to include, what to highlight and what to promote?
Our job is to support African garment and designer industry. Hence, we collect information about every region´s policy regarding garment and textile plans. We then make sure that those plans are realized at ASFW. E.g. West Africans want to support cotton production while the East African region wants to promote the manufacturing of textiles and garments. Then, we have a few countries (e.g. Ivory Coast, Burkina Faso, South Africa, Ethiopia) who target to promote the designer section. So, for every wish and plan, ASFW has the right concept and buyers for them all. This is why today most African countries participate at ASFW.

ASFW 2022 will be highlighting, among things, regional integration in trade. What are the challenges that African industry (as a whole) is facing? What do you think can/should be done to surmount those?
The African industry lacks highly trained employees. Especially, working overtime (like Asians do) is not popular in Africa. Most of the African countries have high custom rates which makes buying raw materials, accessories and technology expensive. But African governments are trying to find solutions to get easy investment and trade within the continent. 

The Africa Sourcing and Fashion Week promotes healthy, safe, ecological and friendly jobs within this industry as well as female employment.
Decent Work, Economic Growth The Africa Sourcing and Fashion Week promotes healthy, safe, ecological and friendly jobs within this industry as well as female employment. Africa Sourcing and Fashion Week

Taking off from the earlier question, how easy/difficult is it to club everything as an African textiles & apparel industry. After all, for example, the problems and prospects of Nigeria's industry would be so different from Morocco's or Botswana's. Your comments, please.
The success of all industries depends on the support of the country government. In those countries where the support is not high, it becomes difficult to compete with others. Fortunately, most of the African governments have realised that easing regulations and supporting investors and local manufacturers is a benefit for them. But all depends on the government policy towards the textiles and garment industry. As an FDI, I would always look at the government policy towards this industry first before I get involved here.  

Another key area that ASFW 2022 would be highlighting are the UN SDGs. Despite the exploitation, Arica still remains rich in natural resources, and the twin issues of livelihoods & poverty need to be addressed. What role does the ASFW seek to play in this context?
ASFW is a member of the SDG initiative and addresses all ideas and target of the same through the conference programme and discussion forum. We promote healthy, safe, ecological and friendly jobs within this industry as well as female employment. In terms of exploitation, I personally believe that Africa has not reached the level of Asia where the exploitation is on the highest level. Africa is full of family culture where such exploitations (compared to Asia) is not possible. The family has a higher position than a job here; so, you will realise that Africans leave at 4 pm or 5 pm and come back the next morning.

The third topic is the local value chain in each African State. It's huge, it's complex and it's varied. So, what can be done? Are you collaborating with, say, CMiA or ACTIF, etc?
We have a great network within the entire value chain (from cotton until finished products, from design to manufacturing) in Africa. CMiA is just a one of many initiatives. As far as we know ACTIF is not operating any more. But there is a new East African umbrella association created a few months ago.

While in the past, Africans were targeting countries outside Africa, in the new future there will be more sales and orders within Africa. Manufacturers have already realised that the costs are lower within Africa, while African middle income generation is high these days.
In Africa While in the past, Africans were targeting countries outside Africa, in the new future there will be more sales and orders within Africa. Manufacturers have already realised that the costs are lower within Africa, while African middle income generation is high these days. Africa Sourcing and Fashion Week

One thing that keeps recurring whenever Africa is mentioned in the textiles/apparel context is the issue of second-hand clothing. What is the ASFW official stand on mitumba? How is the ASFW an answer to the second-hand clothing sector?
We could call it a good thing if the clothes would be in good quality and for free. The second-hand clothing sector is a killer for the African manufacturing industry and jobs. Africans understand that Western countries just trash their clothes in Africa. If you go to Ghana you can see huge trash areas of those second-hand clothes that nobody wants anymore. This is also a killer for the African environment as well as health as they (the people) are burning them and breathing the air. The African governments and also people see this as a way to use Africa as a continent where they can get rid of their trash. ASFW is against the second-hand clothing business and believe that every country should trash its clothes within that same country.
[Mitumba is a Swahili term, literally meaning "bundles", used to refer to plastic-wrapped packages of used clothing donated by people in wealthy countries. The term is also applied to the clothing that arrives in these bundles.]

How has the ASFW Expo fared in the earlier years? What have buyers been interested in? There are two aspects: what is indigenous to Africa, and what African countries produce for Western brands/retailers? How are both of these working out? How do you see these changing in the coming years?
While European and US buyers / fashion brands are interested in sourcing garments from Africa, Africans source fabrics / yarns from Asian exhibitors. We also have a technology sector where African factories buy their new machines. Another buyer is the international brand group who are interested in working with African designers. While Africans used to produce what the Western market ordered, we believe that in the new future Africans will export its own designs and brands internationally and also within Africa. While in the past, Africans were targeting countries outside Africa, in the near future we will see more sales and orders within Africa. Manufacturers have already realised that the costs are lower within Africa, while African middle income generation is high these days. So, there will be a more potential good market within Africa. This will lead foreign (Asian, European, US) brands to invest and sell in Africa too. 

Africa Sourcing and Fashion Week (ASFW) has grown from 50 exhibitors to 250-300 exhibitors. The number of trade buyers has grown from only 500 people to 4,500 trade buyers (from over 50 countries) today.
Growth Trajectory Africa Sourcing and Fashion Week (ASFW) has grown from 50 exhibitors to 250-300 exhibitors. The number of trade buyers has grown from only 500 people to 4,500 trade buyers (from over 50 countries) today. Africa Sourcing and Fashion Week

The ASFW also showcases designers. Designers, unlike companies, do not have deep pockets and also do not have the wherewithal/resources to scale up. What is the ASFW doing to help designers? Could you tell us how this has worked in the earlier editions?
ASFW supports African designers through a programme called ‘Walk for Business – WfB’. This unique concept in Africa is a triangle between designers, sourcing companies and manufacturers. If buyers want to order a big amount from the designers, we make sure that local manufacturers assist in producing a larger amount on behalf of the designer. This concept does not exist anywhere but at ASFW only. While others only focus on catwalks, ASFW makes sure that every designer has a booth at the show and get ready for B2B meetings.  

The ASFW also includes Texprocess and Texworld. Could you share something about these side events? How do you position these from the main ASFW?
ASFW is supported by Messe Frankfurt group. The textiles sector is listed as Texworld, while the garment sector is listed as Apparel Sourcing. The technology sector is represented by Texprocess. Messe Frankfurt group has selected ASFW as the only show in Africa to use those brands. We feel rewarded for the hard job.

There are over 50 countries in Africa. Do you plan to take ASFW outside Addis Ababa? Broadly, how do you plan to expand the ASFW in its physical/geographical scope?
Yes, we have already organised textiles and leather trade shows in Kenya since 2018, and plan to bring ASFW to West Africa soon. We are in discussion with two governments and will evaluate the result of these strategies, plans and support. But there are two more African countries where we are having discussions with those governments. The details will be highlighted once everything gets official. We are honoured to be the biggest textile exhibition organiser in Africa today.

The second-hand clothing sector is a killer for the African manufacturing industry and jobs. Africans understand that Western countries just trash their clothes in Africa... The African governments and also people see this as a way to use Africa as a continent where they can get rid of their trash. ASFW is against the second-hand clothing business and believe that every country should trash its clothes within that same country.

Skander Negasi
Skander Negasi / Chief Executive Offier / Trade and Fairs Consulting GmbH
 
 
  • Dated posted: September 19, 2022
  • Last modified: September 19, 2022