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Manufacturing is key to Africa's economic potential

South Africa

It has been said time and again for African economies to reach full potential, building a strong manufacturing base is the key to unlocking this potential.

This was highlighted during the annual Source Africa trade fair that just concluded in South Africa.

The event-held in Cape Town-brought together about 150 manufacturers from around the continent and beyond especially those in the textile industry.

“Our goal is to provide the market with a very beautiful design, meaning having the same standards as the western brands but made in Africa,” said Jenny Randira an exhibitor from Madagascar.

Still with the steps made, Africa’s textile industry faces stiff competition from second hand imported apparels that have dealt a huge blow to manufacturing.

“In Uganda and with most of East Africa the textile industry is nearly non-existent, in the sense that we don’t produce much clothing in East Africa, its mostly monopolized by the second hand clothing business,” said Ssanyu Kalibbala from Uganda.

Low-end manufacturing is starting to shift to cheaper locations in frontier African nations like Ethiopia that are building a reputation for producing various apparels thanks toi a favourable operating environment.

Such fairs are seen as key in boosting intra- African trade as businesses discover that they can capitalize on tariff advantages and closer markets within the continent, as Mark Goliath a senior dealmaker at South Africa’s Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) revealed.

“Within Africa the AGOA agreement has definitely offered African countries an opportunity and countries such as Ethiopia, and Kenya, Mauritius, Lesotho and Swaziland, they have all embraced that and have quite strong export markets to America at the moment, and slowly there are other countries who have also been cottoning on to this to grow the industrial base within their own region and country.”

Analysts warn that without developing a manufacturing sector the continent risks effectively missing out on the industrial revolution that has powered the rise of countries like China.

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