EAA (Ghana) is committed to taking Ghana to new heights in apparel manufacturing
Co-founder and COO
Ethical Apparel Africa
WFB Bureau: Tell me a little bit about what EAA (Ethical Apparel Africa) does?
Paloma: EAA works in Ghana and Benin. We have collaborations with agents and partner factories and we try to help them build the apparel production orders and technical capacity. EAA is actually a bridge between international buyers and African apparel production units and works as one such supporting agent which is creating a network of exceptional factories that deliver quality, cost-competitive product while empowering employees across the African continent with a focused attention on Ghana.
WFB Bureau: What is the current scenario of the apparel industry and the market in the Africa? How are you tapping into Ghana, which is your main focus in Africa?
Paloma: The Western part of the continent is developing and market time can be anywhere from 15 to 18 days from here to Europe or from here to the US. The time is nearly 45 days if we talk about Kenya and Ethiopia. We visited dozen of factories in Ghana in last 3 years and we invested heavily there because they do not have orders and technical expertise with them. Most of the challenges around the journey include from serving the local market to enable them to produce international quality product in an efficient way. So far, we have made garments for the brands like Brooklyn New York, Chine West of Australia.
AGOA is helping us a lot in capturing orders.
WFB Bureau: What, according to you, is the absolute need of the hour in Ghana?
Paloma: About 80% of the population in Ghana is not employed in the formal sector. There is tremendous need for formal employment in the country as there is a lack of motivation in young people of Ghana for joining formal stable employment. The wages here in Ghana is about quarter of the China's and efficiency too is less than 4 times. The country is not cost competitive. So, entire goal we are trying to achieve with our technical factory development team is to focus on quality and efficiency in this country which is a huge challenge but we are determined.
WFB Bureau: How do you do that? Who all are working in your team?
Paloma: We have people from the Asian manufacturing units in our technical team who prefer to provide on job training to the operators here in Ghana rather than conducting formal workshops. This is the baby step taken by us. We believe training is the base. Once we achieve this successfully, we will move on to our other steps.
WFB Bureau: America is focusing on ‘Made in America’ policy, automation is increasing across the globe. So isn’t it a threat for the Africa’s apparel industry?
Paloma: Made in America is certainly a trend nowadays but I don’t not think this is going to be a threat for the emergence of sub-Saharan Africa. In my opinion, the first need is to build the human capacity rather than looking towards at automation as this can be done at later stage.
The typical minimum order size in Ghana is 1,000 pieces per style, with larger players in the country accustomed to order sizes of 15,000 to 28,000 pieces. Automation is not successful in such small order quantities. Surely, this quantity is high if we consider the apparel sector in Ghana.
WFB Bureau: What’s next for you?
Paloma: AGOA is something we are utilizing to the fullest in order to develop this country in apparel manufacturing. With the Government initiatives, Ghana’s export of apparel under AGOA has expanded from less than US $ 250,000 in 2001 to more than US $ 9 million in 2016. We want to capitalize the unsaturation of this market by 2025.