The textile and clothing industry is becoming an increasingly important part of the economy of some African countries. But how can factories in these countries become more productive while also being socially responsible workplaces?
Made in Morocco. Made in Ethiopia. Made in Kenya. A glance at the label in a garment doesn’t just reveal where it was made but also, indirectly, indicates the item’s quality and the conditions under which it was produced. On global markets, African countries are competing particularly with Asian producers. Although Ghana has experience in textile and clothing production for the regional market, it lacks export expertise. The German Government’s objective is to develop Ghana’s apparel sector and create local jobs and apprenticeships. Compliance with human rights and international standards will be a priority from the outset.
As part of a development partnership with the private sector, the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH has joined forces with four international companies engaged in the apparel sector to boost the competitiveness of industrial apparel production in Ghana and improve working conditions. The partners are cooperating with sector associations, NGOs and training providers.
Improving production conditions
Since January 2019, a development partnership between GIZ and private sector companies has been supporting Ghana’s growing apparel sector in making its clothing factories fit for the export market while also boosting compliance with international standards. The aim is to create 1,200 socially responsible jobs in Ghana by July 2022. To achieve this, GIZ is cooperating with the British sourcing company Ethical Apparel Africa (EAA), Groz-Beckert, a German company producing industrial sewing machine needles, the US pattern technology provider Gerber Technology, and German tech company Freudenberg, whose product range includes non-woven fabrics.
The project is part of the develoPPP programme launched by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) to promote commercial initiatives that are beneficial for development objectives. It is also supported by BMZ’s Special Initiative on Training and Job Creation which operates as ‘Invest for Jobs’ and works with companies in its eight African partner countries to invest in good jobs and apprenticeships and improvements in working conditions.
Fit for the export market
Three aspects in particular require attention when preparing producers for export markets: the quality of their products; the price of what they produce; and their compliance with international standards during production. The project works on all three aspects with a team of senior expat experts from leading apparel exporting countries.
Employee training is especially important for the local apparel companies involved. Ghana has very few schools providing training for skilled technical jobs in the textile industry. The project is supporting the creation of a new training and development department in industrial apparel production at one of Accra’s largest vocational schools, the Accra Technical Training Centre (ATTC). The aim is to prepare employees and apprentices for mass export production. Courses are offered in digital pattern making and sewing machine mechanics. With support from GIZ and its partners, the ATTC also runs training courses for factory staff at middle management level. All training is conducted by experts from South Asia who have honed their technical skills and production expertise in their home countries – Bangladesh, India and Sri Lanka. Modern training equipment has been provided by Gerber, Groz-Beckert and Freudenberg, which also supply training staff for their respective products.
A comprehensive survey of the social and environmental standards currently applied in the partner factories is being conducted to prepare the way for introducing international standards. The survey uses a range of indicators to identify the areas each factory needs to improve on to enable it to comply with international standards, a pre-condition for exporting. This will be followed by the formulation with management of a plan to prepare the factories for a formal social audit and accreditation within 14 months. Human resources and compliance managers in the factories will receive training through a combination of workshops, factory visits and ad hoc support to implement improvements.
As at: July 2021