The Africa Fashion Week Nigeria kicked off on Friday, July 1 with the ‘Textile and Manufacturing’ conference. The hall at the Eko Hotels and Suites which was used for the conference was filled with participants from various aspects of the Fashion scene in Nigeria: representatives of the larger fashion houses, small-scale fashion entrepreneurs, enthusiasts, and members of the press. Also, present at the event were Government officials and development financiers.
The panel for the conference held discussions in sessions. In one of the sessions, the Minister of State for Industry, Mrs Aisha Abubakar, made an insightful presentation about the potentials and challenges of the fashion industry in Nigeria. Mrs Folake Oyemade, Managing Director of Sam and Sara (which has a garment factory reputed to be West Africa’s largest), captured the attention of the audience with her description of the difficulties being faced by garment manufacturing in the country. She talked about her attempts to take advantage of the AGOA (Africa Growth and Opportunity Act) program, and the obstacles she faced- impediments which, she opined, also hindered the growth of Nigeria’s garment and textile industry. Possible solutions to these problems were discussed by the panel. They made appeals to the government to deal with the influx of smuggled garments, as local producers are finding it difficult to cope with the competition these illegal wares bring about.
In another session, Mr Akintunde Oyebode, Executive Secretary of the Lagos State Employment Trust Fund, again referred to the competitive advantage problem hinted at by Mrs Oyemade. He pointed out that a lot of Nigeria’s garment production is done on a relatively small scale, and suggested that these small producers outsource their production to larger companies, while they focus on design specifications for their garments. He was particularly keen on fashion entrepreneurs finding a niche for themselves, as opposed to getting involved in most or all aspects of the trade. Mr Oyebode’s preferred path of specialisation was emphasised by Ms Jennifer Anoyika, Director General of the Nigerian-German Business Association, whose presentation focused on “value chain thinking”. This approach to production and sales, she said, was about placing the initial emphasis of the business on the customer, rather than the market, and takes note of the importance of the components of the production and distribution chain.
Other members of the panel include Dr Johannes Flosbach, Head of Performance Management, TGI Group; Chioma Nwagboso, Advisor on Public Private Partnerships for GIZ (German International Cooperation); Mrs Doris Onwugamba, MD, Manufacturing Resource Centre, Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN); Dr Mustapha Abiodun Akinwunmi, Commissioner for Finance, Lagos State; and representatives from the Hungarian Embassy and DaViva Fabrics.