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It’s no secret that Africa is attracting a lot of attention from the apparel and footwear industries as the potential “next big thing” in sourcing. In fact, WRAP has certified over 60 facilities there so far. But as the intrigue in Africa rises, so do the questions regarding the keys to success there. This was the topic of a recent panel discussion at the SOURCING at MAGIC trade show in Las Vegas,which included our President & CEO Avedis Seferian. We’ve pulled 5 soundbytes from this panel that should give you some insight into what it takes to successfully source from Africa.
1.) Growth in Africa is real
While the continent may not yet have the capacity to compete with other, more established global sourcing players like India or China, interest has been steadily growing in African sourcing and many of the world's major brands are paying increased attention to Africa. What's also important to realize there is that unlike the major hubs in Asia, where countries like China, India, and Bangladesh are seen as independent entities, Africa is too often being thought of as a single national entity, when in fact it is a massive continent consisting of 54 independent states, 49 of which are considered to be in the “sub-Saharan” region. While there are a few continental cooperative groups, like the African Union, the fact is that each of these nations has their own individual governments with their own laws and culture, not all of whom get along with each other.
2.) Long-term thinking is key
While much of the success and growth mentioned previously is due in large part to the U.S. African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), long-term success in the region for all stakeholders must be based on long-term mindsets that go far beyond even the 10-year AGOA horizon.
3.) Holistic long-term thinking is just as important
While compliance and education at the factory level are indeed crucial components, success in Africa will ultimately depend on all stakeholders, including local and national governments, acknowleging the roles they play in these areas and prudently fulfilling those roles.
4.) Buyers and brands must acknowledge the realities of the continent and consider the costs accordingly.
While this can be said for any sourcing project anywhere in the world, it is especially true for Africa given its developmental stage. Buyers must be cognizant of the inherent challenges faced in getting their products to market from Africa, while producers must understand that social compliance and ethics are imperative investments instead of moral options.
5.) When it comes right down to it, the old rules still work in a new place.
Whether it is Africa, Asia, America, or Antartica, the tried and true ways of compliance thinking will always lead to success.