Workers at the Export Processing Zone in Athi River. FILE PHOTO | NMG Research has produced an astonishing number of expert papers describing how best to harness the great potential in the cotton, textiles and apparel sector to create jobs and earn foreign exchange.
The global apparel industry is worth about $800 billion annually with the US and EU the dominant markets and China, Bangladesh, India, Sri Lanka and other countries in South East Asia the main
As the country was transfixed last week with the high-profile arrest and court appearance of former Finance minister Henry Rotich and his principal secretary, Dr Kamau Thugge, many missed the government’s approval of the setting up of a large textile- and apparel-manufacturing company at the Athi River Export Processing Zone (EPZ) that will employ 3,100 people once it starts operating.
That is big deal. But the bigger deal is that Mass Holdings, the company whose application has been approved, is increasing its footprint in the Kenyan market from where, all factors being equal, it should boost the textiles and apparel sector significantly. Mass Holdings is one of the big hitter global companies turning over a revenue of close to $2 billion (Sh200 billion) annually, and is looking for more competitive locations for its businesses.
Although Ethiopia has created conditions that have attracted large scale investments in the sector (and so far provided direct employment to more than 60,000 people in five years), Kenya’s advantages are superior to those that Ethiopia can offer.
Two advantages stand out: The language and infrastructure facilitative of speed to export and import. The common English language provides ease of skills transfer in an industry where precision is key for output of quality garments.
It is also critical that manufacturers are able to very quickly send apparel out to their buyers in the US or EU markets and receive imports of necessary inputs. Ethiopia is disadvantaged on both fronts.
But President Kenyatta must move a lot faster and demand much more proactivity from his team if these advantages are to benefit Kenyans. So far, there has been too much talk, research and prevarication but little action.
This research has produced an astonishing number of expert papers describing how best to harness the great potential in the cotton, textiles and apparel sector to create jobs and earn foreign exchange.
There is, for instance, the Kenya National Agoa Strategy and Action Plan (2018-2023), […]