AfDB focuses on fashion industry to create jobs for millions of women and youth in Africa

The African Development Bank (AfDB) has called for the empowerment of small and medium operators in the textiles, apparel and accessories sectors as a deliberate job creation strategy.

The AfDB made the call at the recently concluded Small Business Indaba held on June 26, 2017 in Gauteng, South Africa.  The main objective of the Small Business Indaba was to provide small, medium and micro-enterprises (SMMEs) with the tools and network to grow their manufacturing operations to the next level of innovation and job creation.

Emanuela Gregorio, Gender Specialist at AfDB

“Textile and clothing is the second largest sector in the developing world after agriculture. This sector is dominated by SMEs and holds the potential to create jobs for millions of women and youth across Africa,” Emanuela Gregorio, Gender Specialist at AfDB, said at the conference.

“The foundation of any long-lasting venture in Africa depends on the continuous empowerment of regional SMEs and young entrepreneurs. Governments, the private sector and international investors must consider Africa’s young people and SMEs central to the stability of their economies.”

A large percentage of workers in the textile and clothing industry is made up of women.

Because it is labour-intensive, it has great scope to offer employment and to transform the lives of many women and youth across Africa.

“In this context, we have developed a flagship initiative named Fashionomics to enable African women and youth operating in the textiles, apparel and accessories sector to develop and grow their businesses,” she noted.

The AfDB launched Fashionomics (the economics of fashion) initiative to increase Africa’s participation in the global textile industry supply chain. Fashionomics is an initiative to support the development of micro, small and medium-sized businesses (MSMEs) operating in the textile, apparel and accessories industry in Africa, with a focus on women and youth empowerment.

SMEs have the great potential of fuelling growth and spur job creation. Today, these small and growing businesses create around 80% of the region’s employment, establishing a new middle class and fuelling demand for new goods and services.

Countries like Ethiopia intend to become “leaders in light manufacturing”, which includes apparel, leather and agro-processing and create 300,000 jobs for the industry.

The Bank runs an SME programme designed to support micro, small and medium enterprises, and is closely tracking its role in the continent’s inclusive development through its High-5 agenda (Light up and power Africa, Feed Africa, Industrialise Africa, Integrate Africa, and Improve the quality of life for the people of Africa).

According to the AfDB, Africa currently has 480 million youth and that figure is projected to grow to 850 million youth by 2050. Despite the more than 10 million youth that enter the workforce each year, only 3 million formal jobs are created annually (in the public and private sector). Even when jobs are available, youth often do not have the skills required, despite gains in education access over the past several decades. Women are particularly impacted, often facing even greater barriers to accessing opportunities and earning equal pay.

In this context, the development of labour-intensive sectors is imperative and the African creative industries offer massive potential for continent-wide job creation and GDP growth. The African fashion is a case in point, the Bank says. All across the continent, hundreds of thousands of tailors and designers, most of them operating in the informal sector, are producing unique garments and accessories with a visible “made in Africa” brand for a growing middle class.

The Bank is in the process of operationalizing the full-scale Fashionomics platform to connect the different stakeholders in the industry (suppliers, buyers, retailers, designers/fashion entrepreneurs, financiers, donors, etc.), along with the financial community and end-users. Therefore, the key next steps are to: increase access to markets; increase access to finance by connecting designers/fashion entrepreneurs with commercial banks and established investors, but also by tapping into alternative financing channels, such as crowdfunding mechanisms, and linking them to angel and impact investors; improve the skills of the target group, enhancing productivity (shared-production facilities/incubators), mentorship, tutorials, skills development (through boot camps/trainings on produce high-quality garment, but also business acumen on how to prepare business plan, etc.), and develop market intelligence surveys that will assist them to prosper and sustain their businesses; and provide networking opportunities.

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