By Vandana Prakash Nair
If there were ever a time to invest in East Africa, that time is now. This is the message that SITA strove to convey at two recent sector conclaves in New Delhi, India.
At the Confederation of Indian Textile Industry (CITI)’s Global Textiles Conclave held on 27th and 28th November, SITA facilitated the participation of Ms Jolly Sabune, Managing Director of Uganda’s Cotton Development Organization (CDO). Ms Sabune used the opportunity to network with Indian textile businesses across the textile and apparel value chain, and even had a meet and greet with the Honourable Vice President of India, Shri M. Venkaiah Naidu, who attended the conclave as its Chief Guest.
The Global Textiles Conclave convened a series of panels on topics relevant to the textiles sector. SITA Coordinator Mr Govind Venuprasad was a panellist at ‘Disrupting Paradigms, and Reimagining Textiles Supply Chains to Make Them Future Ready’. Mr Venuprasad presented investment opportunities in the East African textile and apparel sector, particularly highlighting free trade agreements such as the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), Everything But Arms (EBA); as well as Africa’s demographic dividend projected to reach 1.4 billion by 2030, of which 840 million people will be below the age of 30. In Mr Venuprasad’s words: ‘If your market is the world, go to Africa.’
SITA made a similar appeal to leather businesses attending the Council for Leather Export (CLE)’s Export Awards and Leather conclave held on 29th November. In his inaugural address, Shri Suresh Prabhu, India’s Union Minister of Commerce & Industry and Civil Aviation, exhorted the gathered members of the Indian leather community to develop a common strategy to seize regional and international business opportunities.
Following the same theme, four international speakers addressed topics ranging from the global footwear market to latest trends in sustainability in the leather industry. In his presentation on ‘Leather Sector business opportunities in Africa,’ Mr Venuprasad highlighted specific opportunities in Africa’s leather sector, pointing to a recent investment in East Africa by an Indian SME, the Ambur-based Hurera Leather company, which established Uganda’s first ever shoe manufacturing unit in Kampala Industrial and Business Park. Again, the region’s rapidly growing population will boost the potential of the footwear industry on the continent, supported by commitments by African governments to develop and add value to their countries’ leather sectors. By waiting too long to invest or trade with Africa, Indian leather businesses risk losing the first-mover advantage to international competitors.
The message that SITA drove home to textile and leather businesses in New Delhi was loud and clear: It is time to invest in Africa.