MADE IN AFRICA – THE NEXT FRONTIER FOR APPAREL MANUFACTURING
With rising domestic labor costs, increased land prices
and regulatory compliance issues, China’s coastal
export manufacturing centers have begun to erode
the cost advantages of light manufacturing in the Orient, a trend
likely to accelerate in the coming years. Factory safety standards
are under scrutiny in Bangladesh as a result of the Rana Plaza
tragedy. European manufacturing isn’t fairing much better; the
economic downturn has forced many established Italian factories
out of business.
Africa is ripe to become the world’s next
manufacturing hub, the ongoing redistribution of
cost advantages in labor-intensive manufacturing presents an
opportunity for Sub-Saharan Africa to start producing many light
manufactures, enhance private investment and create millions of
jobs across the continent, especially for young people who make
up as much as 36% of the total working-age population; three in
five of Africa’s unemployed are under the age of 25.
As it stands Africa accounts for only 1% of global light
manufacturing, the industry is in an embryonic stage. This is an
opportunity within itself and allows for innovation and standard
setting from the outset, in light of what happened in Bangladesh,
ensuring the supply chains are sustainable and respecting the
rights of workers at the level of global standards in Africa is key.
Africa has the chance to create a
manufacturing industry that avoids the mistakes
of the past (and present) of the current sector.