Let's grow our textiles and apparel sector to create jobs

This might surprise you, but Kenya is one of the global suppliers of big fashion brands in the US. Kenya is the largest exporter of garments under the African Growth and Opportunity Act (Agoa) programme.

We pride ourselves in manufacturing for big names such as H&M, Levi’s, JC Penny, Wrangler and Otto, among others. This demonstrates that local industries can produce quality products for local and global markets.

Our textile and apparel sector plays a key role in the economy due to clothing being a basic need, the strong linkage between manufacturing and agriculture in the farm-to-fashion value chain, and the ability of the sector to create gainful mass employment within a short period.

Despite the local sector making a mark in the global space through our apparel exports worth Sh51 billion, our imports remain high. In 2021, Kenya imported textiles and apparel products worth Sh85 billion and imported second-hand clothes worth Sh19 billion.

This calls for an urgent need to boost the sector to provide citizens and export markets with quality, affordable and ready-made garments from locally produced materials while creating jobs along the value chain.

Additionally, the high involvement of micro, small and medium-sized enterprises in the sector provides a golden opportunity to infuse creativity and diversity in our fashion in addition to the agility to drive fashion trends.

A deliberate structure to grow and develop SMEs would be a sure bet to drive this. Local industry is committed to increasing the manufacturing sector contribution to GDP from the current 7.2 per cent to 20 per cent by 2030 in its Manufacturing 20by30 plan.

To implement this plan, the Kenya Association of Manufacturers and the State kicked off sector dives to get insights on the opportunities that manufacturing value chains provide and how best to plug into each.

An analysis of the local textiles and apparel sector calls for urgent intervention to close the gaps to run an efficient farm-to-fashion value chain.

Linkages between the textiles and apparel sector with other sectors including agriculture, energy, finance, packaging, retail and logistics can create a huge economic ripple effect and boost the economy.

Kenya is now a net importer of cotton, but opportunities to create over 200,000 direct jobs in cotton farming exist. In comparison to the Sh252 trillion global market, Kenya’s apparel exports are just a drop in the ocean.

The writer is the CEO of Kenya Association of Manufacturers, [email protected]

The Standard
Get unlimited access to The Standard website!