As many of you must know, Africa is an important cotton producer, and the continent has a very important role along the value chain as a manufacturer of clothing. Although Africa grows only about 10 % of the worlds cotton, the big difference between the way the continent manufactures the product in comparison to the rest of the world is that it is made by a smallholder farmer who cares for the crop, instead of large plantations that are managed around the world.
What is not exactly great for the country, however, is the fact that the whole continent produces such a large percentage of the cotton fiber for the world, but manages to convert only 30% into yarn, fabric and apparel for domestic and regional consumption. The usual process for the cotton produced in Africa is that it is collected in the continent, then taken to Asia, converted into garments and products that are later shipped to Europe and the United States to be sold at increased prices. After the clothing has been worn for 2-3 years, it later is shipped back to Africa and used as second hand clothing by it’s people.
In order to make a better situation for Africans, it is not only the job of designers to create fashion lines and use local products but instead of international ones, but it is also necessary to create a full scale plan in order to continue the manufacturing and retail sales inside the continent. This way, the money can stay in Africa and it’s people can also become benefited by their work and natural resources.
The reasons why this has not yet been done in the past is probably because of various issues in the sector that do not function in the most efficient way. Some of these issues include high power cost, lack of marketing linkages, low technology level, lack of skilled workforce, absence of incentives to attract FDI, lack of support infrastructure, protection of domestic industry, export incentives, raw material allocation, weak supply chain linkages, and a few others. Of course, fixing so many issues will definitely take some time and require a large plan with professionals with a vision behind it, but once this is performed, it may help millions of Africans to live a higher quality life and allow the continent to continue it’s process of growth.