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African textile producers need better focus

There are growing opportunities in the US for African clothing and textile producers under the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA). The act runs from 2000 to 2015. Exports from Africa to the US under AGOA have grown by 500 per cent from 2001 to 2011, of which the textile and apparel industry amounted to almost a billion dollars. Despite this growth, the African share of the US market amounts to just one per cent, so there is ample opportunity for African manufacturers to increase their exports to the US.

Rising production costs in China means that US retailers are beginning to look elsewhere to fill orders. The quality of yarn and technology used by African textile manufacturers to produce their products is very good, yet companies struggle to make an impact in the US markets. One reason is that they cannot manufacture the volumes of merchandise sought by American retailers.

Under AGOA the best opportunities for African companies lie where the highest US duty rates are applied on exports from other countries. Since Africa can’t emulate China in terms of mass producing goods, African companies can cater to niche markets, creating new styles. African producers need a long-term preferential trade agreement is order to develop supply chains that can meet demand.