By Devika Jyothi
As African fashion takes the world by storm, SITA’s East African textile and fashion designers were recently in the spotlight at Origin Africa 2018 held in Nairobi, Kenya (9-11 September). Origin Africa is an annual trade fair for the African cotton, textile, apparel and fashion industries specifically promoting “Made in Africa” brands. Designers had an opportunity to exhibit their portfolios highlighting the style and innovation Africa offers to the contemporary fashion scene.
SITA sponsored five booths and facilitated the participation of 10 SMEs at Origin Africa 2018.Participants included six Rwandan designers representing SITA’s women entrepreneur-focused initiative, Mitreeki East Africa-India Partnership; three designers from the Ethiopian Handloom project and one Kenyan Handloom Co-operative. The 2-day event offered a platform for these East African businesses to profile and market their product range so that they are well placed to take advantage of regional and international trade opportunities. The Rwandans displayed designs ranging from attractive children’s fashion to shoemaking using African textile materials like the “kitenge” from East Africa and “Kente cloth” from Ghana.
Three up and coming Rwandan designers – Haute Baso, Kosmotive’s Kadablah Collection and Uzi Creations – as well as an Ethiopian designer, Ms. Sofia Mohammed of Sofishoa Garment Enterprise walked the catwalk at the fashion show. Their unique designs captured the spirit and style of Africa to rave reviews from the audience.
‘The event offered key insights on exhibiting product lines as well as the standards that need to be adhered to be competitive in the international market,’ commented Pierra Ntayombya of Haute Baso. For Ms. Umotoni Rwema Laurene of Uzi Creations, Origin Africa was instrumental in exposing her to an array of branding techniques, better preparing her for future trade shows.
The Kenya Handweavers Marketing Cooperative displayed their range of carefully crafted mats, runners and kikois developed with SITA’s support. They registered over USD$400 in direct sales at the event and received inquiries from both local and international buyers. ‘This trade fair was an excellent opportunity for our budding cooperative to show the world that we are ready to do business and sell high quality woven products,’ said Roselyne Musiega, Chairperson of the Cooperative.
In conjunction with Origin Africa, two other events took place in Nairobi. The first was the annual convention of the International Textile Manufacturers Federation (ITMF) (7-9 September). Organised by the African Cotton and Textile Industries Federation (ACTIF), over 300 textile luminaries attended ITMF. Hon. Peter Munya, Cabinet Secretary in Kenya’s Ministry of Industry, Trade and Cooperatives officially opened ITMF. ‘We need investments if we are to create the jobs which Kenyans need. As you may already know, the textiles and apparels value chain is a key area of priority in manufacturing, which is a central pillar of my Big 4 Agenda for the next five years,’ Mr. Munya said.
With SITA’s support Mr. Lakshmi Narayana, Chair of the Southern Indian Mills Association – Cotton Development and Research Association (SIMA CDRA), attended the ITMF Convention as a special invitee where he had the opportunity to interact with several international textile manufacturers. Their discussions centred on identifying and establishing possible collaborations to facilitate the transformation of the textile industry and clothing value chain in East Africa.
The second event was a two-day workshop (12-13 September) hosted by the ACTIF in association with Kenya’s Ministry of Industry, Trade and Cooperatives as well as the International Finance Corporation. The workshop focused on productively connecting African MSMEs in the fashion and creative sector to the global value chain. Ms Betty Maina, Kenya’s Principal Secretary of Industrialization graced the event.
‘Investing in SMEs holds the key to Africa’s economic growth,’ stressed Ms. Sarah Ochieng of the IFC in her opening remarks at the workshop. Importantly, Ms. Betty Maina then pointed out the necessity of agreed upon guidelines for establishing adequate policy, regulatory and governance structures to foster county-level MSME development.
Several successful designers also shared experiences from their entrepreneurial journeys at the workshop, particularly focusing on the challenges and lessons learnt, thereby providing candid guidance to entrepreneurs looking to scale up their businesses.
SITA-sponsored participants found the sessions very useful and engaging. In the words of Ms. Sofia Mohammed, ‘This workshop and the Origin Africa trade fair has completely changed my ideas on how to run my business moving forward. Thank you, SITA, for this incredible exposure! ’