Part 3: A case for African Textiles

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Photograph: Ivan Naude

The previous articles in this series postulated the creation of a sustainable and world-class textile industry in sub-Saharan Africa. The authors’ case made provision for every step in the process, from growing the cotton plant to producing the dyed and finished fabric – on the African continent. All that is left is the garments themselves. In the final instalment, Andrew McLachlan and Brian Bakker consider the development of an African apparel industry.

What of an African apparel industry?

Unfortunately, the idea of developing an African apparel industry is nothing new. Africa has had a long and undistinguished history as far as the making of final garments is concerned, virtually all of them spectacularly unsuccessful. Certainly, there are isolated pockets of the apparel production industry that have survived and even thrived. However, there is nothing approaching the scale of what would be needed to produce enough garments for local markets – let alone produce enough quality apparel to satisfy the demand from international markets.

Among those countries in which garment making has been tried, Lesotho and Swaziland illustrate how business success can be achieved at the expense of basic human labour rights. Both countries welcomed Taiwanese investors and made concessions such as long-term tax breaks in the pursuit of employment opportunities for the local communities. All to no avail: Promises were not kept and today the garment manufacturing industry in those countries is a shadow of what it could have been.

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Who, exactly, is “the media”?

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It seems like everywhere one turns these days, one is confronted by some or other criticism or outright attack on “the media”. In many cases the critique displays an appalling ignorance of who and what “the media” really is. As a professional journalist and editor, this ignorance offends me and this post is my attempt to do something about that ignorance. Feel free to tell everybody you know about it – particularly those who are in the habit of criticising “the media”.

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Part 2: A case for African Textiles

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The previous article in the Transforming Africa [first published in African trader magazine] series presented the case for a continent-wide textiles industry in Africa, created by Africans for African markets. The article hypothesised the establishment of a knitting, dyeing and finishing plant to achieve that. In this instalment, Brian Bakker and business analyst Andrew McLachlan consider the entire cotton value chain, with particular reference to the supply of raw cotton to the plant.

Can Africa spin its own cotton?

The reason why a textile knitting, dyeing and finishing plant serving Africa first, and the rest of the world second, could not currently succeed is because the vast majority of cotton in Africa today is grown under contract for overseas markets. What it means is that Africa would have to dramatically expand its cotton production and avail itself of ginning and spinning facilities in order to produce enough spun cotton to supply such a hypothetical textile finishing plant. That’s a big task, given that Africa’s contribution to the cultivation of cotton has decreased considerably over the last five years. More

Part 1: A case for African textiles

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This is the first in a series of articles that suggests a better future than past for the continent. Appropriately, the series is published in African Trader magazine, with this article appearing in the September/October 2010 issue.

Be warned, it’s quite long but I believe that it presents the business case  for a new, internally focused (at least initially) textiles industry in Africa. This one deals with the part of the production chain that produces finished and dyed fabric from spun cotton. I’ll post the others articles in the series in the coming weeks. As always, comments are welcome.

A case for African textiles

A current perception is that Africa simply cannot compete on price with Asia when it comes to manufacturing textiles. But perception doesn’t necessarily equal reality, Brian Bakker discovered. More

Pikitup gets a clue

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Who are these people and what have they done with the incompetent fools who used to run the city of Johannesburg? As a long-time resident of the city I’m used to services not being delivered and no explanation being available. For example, just last Saturday night I was sitting watching a movie when at almost exactly eleven o’clock, the power goes out. I tried to phone City Power but either the call centre isn’t staffed late on a Saturday night or the single operator was off on an extended tea-break. The power eventually came back on after about six hours and I found out the next day that it was a widespread outage affecting several suburbs so it’s just possible the call centre was over-loaded. More

Six cops arrested

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Excellent news today: the six police officers who beat Andries Tatane to death in Ficksburg earlier this week have been arrested. Here’s the story reporting the arrests. Now let’s see what happens to them.

The road to Zim?

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I have frequently commented that elements of the ANC are sounding more and more like ZANU PF and if one looks at what has happened in the police services in the last few years, that worry is increasingly relevant. Consider this: In my last post concerning the Ficksburg man who was beaten to death by police, I noted that  I had :

…heard a little rumour, that has yet to be confirmed, that the victim fancied himself as a prospective councillor. If that is true, I’d like to know if he was (a) one of those removed from the ANC party list; (b) an independent; or (c) a candidate for an opposition party. The answers could be very revealing.

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