Success Story : Sleek Garment is developing its capacity to
attract and handle large orders.More

Nora Bannerman is an accomplished fashion designer and business entrepreneur with over thirty years (30) of experience promoting indigenous business and successfully managing a number of companies. She has rich experience in business and trade policy negotiations.More

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Success Story
Company is developing its capacity to attract and handle large orders.
Outfitting Clothing Firms for Export.

Fashion designer Nora Bannerman aspires to bring Ghanaian-made clothing to bigger markets throughout Africa and the United States.

“We are putting Ghana on the radar as an exporter under AGOA of high quality garments,” said Nora Bannerman, founder and CEO of Sleek Garments.

On the wall of the Sleek Garments factory, overlooking a bustling assembly line of 300 workers, is a sign: “Quality First, Quantity Second”. Sleek’s founder and CEO, Nora Bannerman, has held to that philosophy since her first years as a fashion designer. She is determined to maintain it as Sleek shifts into mass production, sewing thousands of shirts bound for Ross Stores, one of the largest discount clothing retailers in the United States.

After all, Bannerman said, Sleek’s emphasis on quality convinced a sourcing agent to place the order for 75,000 casual rayon shirts. The agent had heard of Sleek from California Link, another garment factory that, along with Sleek, is part of Ghana’s blooming apparel manufacturing cluster.

Ghana’s government has offered incentives that have encouraged several clothing factories to relocate and build there. Many of them export to the United States under the African Growth and Opportunities Act (AGOA), which waives duties on select goods from eligible African countries. “We are putting Ghana on the radar as an exporter under AGOA of high-quality garments,” Bannerman said.

Bannerman also receives support from USAID’s West Africa Trade Hub, which conducts industry-specific training and accompanies clients to major trade shows in the United States in order to facilitate deal-making. The Trade Hub provided financial planning services and advised Bannerman as she sought pre-export financing to purchase fabric for the Ross order. Bannerman is now negotiating Sleek’s next large order with an American uniform company and planning to triple her workforce over the next few years.

“I dream of brands coming out of Ghana, supplying African markets as well as the huge U.S. market,” Bannerman said. “Everything is possible in this industry.”

Globalisation , China and Ghanaian Entrepreneurs

Near the port in Accra, the Ghanaian government has set up duty-free industrial zones to spur international trade. Hand-painted logos adorn the walls of the warehouse-style buildings, and their large wooden doors open off the loading docks. At lunchtime, women sell hot meals of beans and rice to workers in the shade of the eaves. This is where Nora Bannerman's factory makes dresses and clothes sold in American department stores and lab coats worn by pharmacists at Walgreens and CVS in the United States.

Bannerman, who has made clothes since she was nine years old, is an icon in Ghana. She wears designer sunglasses as she drives through town in her cobalt-blue Mercedes Benz. She will not reveal her age except to say she was born in the Gold Coast, Ghana's name before independence. Her fashion design school has trained more than 100 students, and many have since set up their own businesses. Bannerman's story shows how globalization both helps and hurts Africans in their desire to move ahead.

Easier trade gives Africans access to millions of people with money to spend, and Bannerman's designs sell in the United States, France, Germany and Switzerland. But it also brings competition, especially from China, which plays a growing role in Africa. China imports raw materials from all over Africa, such as Ghana's timber and minerals. In 2005 Ghana's trade with China increased 35 percent to $816 million, making China its top trading partner. And China is investing - it loaned Ghana $30 million to build a national fiber optic network.

Yet China also floods the world with goods so cheap that Africans can't compete. Bannerman says Chinese companies mass-produce, without permission, her designs and traditional African fabrics at prices below her cost of production.

" China has been going all over Africa, picking out the good ideas,'' says Bannerman, sitting in her factory office. ``While we were still doing high-value, hand-woven kente cloth, China came out with kente prints that are selling well to the United States.'' Bannerman says her American buyers constantly pressure her to cut prices. But she won't and can't cut wages - the U.S. African Growth and Opportunity Act requires African exporters to meet human rights standards that do not apply to China, because of international trade rules.

Bannerman also has to pay high taxes on all imported cloth and thread that further raise her costs to export. And she competes within Africa against second-hand clothes from international donors that are not taxed. She says all she and other African business people need to succeed is a fair playing field. ``We don't want a situation where we are asking for aid all of the time,'' she says.

Africa has a long history of international trade. The 1st century gold coins of the royal families of Axum, in present-day Ethiopia, have been found as far away as India. Yet the continent today accounts for only 4 percent of global trade. On the roads in almost every town, small-scale entrepreneurs balance on their heads everything from vegetables and ice cream to DVD players and television aerials as they sell to drivers stuck in traffic. But most of those goods come from overseas - $273 million left the continent in 2005.

Capital inflow to some African countries, including Ghana, is now rising. And so is hope. This year's study by the Pew Global Attitudes Project found that despite crushing poverty, majorities in nine out of 10 African countries surveyed believe their lives will be better five years from now. Surveys in 12 African countries from 1999 to 2006 by the Afrobarometer Network, an independent research group, also found growing optimism.

Asmah says Africans can and will work hard to succeed, and he is trying to spread the wealth in his country. He supports a business plan competition that gives advice to 60 promising entrepreneurs and helps them build contacts, in partnership with business promoter TechnoServe and Google.org, the Internet company's philanthropic arm. The top 20 winners get a jump start in their new enterprise.

Success Story

Outfitting Clothing Firms for Export

Fashion designer Nora Bannerman aspires to bring Ghanaian-made clothing to bigger markets throughout Africa and the United States.

“We are putting Ghana on the radar as an exporter under AGOA of high quality garments,” said Nora Bannerman, founder and CEO of Sleek Garments On the wall of the Sleek Garments factory, overlooking a bustling assembly line of 300 workers, is a sign: “Quality First, Quantity Second”.

Sleek’s founder and CEO, Nora Bannerman, has held to that philosophy since her first years as a fashion designer. She is determined to maintain it as Sleek shifts into mass production, sewing thousands of shirts bound for Ross Stores, one of the largest discount clothing retailers in the United States.

After all, Bannerman said, Sleek’s emphasis on quality convinced a sourcing agent to place the order for 75,000 casual rayon shirts. The agent had heard of Sleek from California Link, another garment factory that, along with Sleek, is part of Ghana’s blooming apparel manufacturing cluster.

Ghana’s government has offered incentives that have encouraged several clothing factories to relocate and build there. Many of them export to the United States under the African Growth and Opportunities Act (AGOA), which waives duties on select goods from eligible African countries. “We are putting Ghana on the radar as an exporter under AGOA of high-quality garments,” Bannerman said.

Bannerman also receives support from USAID’s West Africa Trade Hub, which conducts industry-specific training and accompanies clients to major trade shows in the United States in order to facilitate deal-making. The Trade Hub provided financial planning services and advised Bannerman as she sought pre-export financing to purchase fabric for the Ross order. Bannerman is now negotiating Sleek’s next large order with an American uniform company and planning to triple her workforce over the next few years.

“I dream of brands coming out of Ghana, supplying African markets as well as the huge U.S. market,” Bannerman said. “Everything is possible in this industry.”

Non-Traditional Exports Are Booming

Francis Kokutse

ACCRA, Jun 19 (IPS) - Impressive growth in exports from Ghana to the rest of the world has been witnessed over the past few years as more and more Ghanaians explore production in non-traditional sectors.

Nowadays it is not only this West African country’s cocoa and minerals exports that are enjoying a boom. Handicrafts and agricultural produce such as pineapples and mangoes have picked up over the past five years.

Finance and economic minister Kwadwo Baah-Wiredu recently indicated that the export sector as a whole has performed well, showing steady growth and earning foreign exchange. Exports raised 3,858 million dollars in 2007, representing growth of approximately 40 percent over 2006.

Central Bank Governor Paul Acquah confirmed the growth of the non-traditional sector at a recent press conference. Non-traditional exports rose by 27.1 percent to 259 million dollars for the first quarter of 2008, compared with 204 million dollars for the corresponding period in 2007.

This continues the growth in 2006: non-traditional exports grew from 207 million dollars in the fourth quarter of 2006 to 325 million dollars in the same period in 2007.

One of the sectors benefiting has been clothing manufacturing. Hidden along Kwame Nkrumah Avenue in Accra is the business place of Nora Bannerman. She has taken advantage of the favourable conditions to supply apparel to retailers in the U.S..

But the growth in production of new exports is even more noticeable when one moves out of the capital Accra into the countryside. Mango plantations have sprang up where there used to be virgin lands. Theophilus Owusu, a former teacher, has just started a farm near Adawso in the eastern region.

‘‘A friend introduced me to mango farming. When I got to know about the export potential from him, I decided to get out of teaching and put my land to better use,’’ Owusu told IPS.

Last year Owusu was able to export mangoes to Britain and Spain, earning 350,000 dollars. ‘‘But it has not been easy because much of the initial investment came from my own resources as the banks are not ready to provide support. It has been a very difficult journey but it has paid off in the end,’’ a relieved Owusu said.

Near him lives Grace Duah who is preparing the land on her farm for pineapple cultivation.

Duah lived in the United Kingdom for several years, working as a nurse: ‘‘I went into a shop in London to buy a pineapple and realised that it was imported from Ghana. This inspired me to move into farming.

‘‘Fortunately, my last child who was living with me got admission to university. I was able to take early retirement to return home and start my farm.’’

The tremendous growth in exports has partly been made possible by the U.S. government’s Africa Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), according to Abou Fall, AGOA support service coordinator in Accra.

AGOA is aimed at improving trade between Africa and the U.S.. The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) set up a West Africa Trade Hub in Accra where they provide technical assistance to people who want to export to the U.S..

There has been some criticism, though. Cashew nut farmer Johnson Otoo told IPS that the import standards in the U.S. can make it impossible to take advantage of AGOA.

‘‘I wanted to export cashew nuts but I realised that the conditions for packaging and even how the nuts were harvested were very stringent. I am still trying to find out how to go through the system,’’ said an exasperated Otoo.

In response, Fall explained that ‘‘the measures are what the U.S. authorities expect of every supplier. They are not directed at any specific exporter. That is why the Trade Hub is here to provide technical assistance. There are success stories of Ghanaian companies that have taken advantage of our services and have been able to sell to the U.S. market.’’

Given AGOA and the general emphasis on export production emanating from the North, Ghana’s government has put in place structures to assist non-traditional exports.

Three export trade houses, namely Ghana Export Trade Company Limited, Ghana Trade Centre and Ghanextrade, have been located across the globe to help Ghana’s producers and exporters to identify and select markets and to evaluate client products and related materials.

These centres also negotiate export contracts as well as provide promotional support to small and medium enterprises (SMEs).

In addition, finance is made available through the Export Development and Investment Fund (EDIF), established to provide financial resources to the non-traditional export sector.

EDIF’s credit facility covers agro-processing, salt mining and processing; textiles and garments manufacturing; aluminium and metal fabrication; wood handicrafts; and pharmaceuticals. A grant facility is also available which covers fairs and exhibitions, research, capacity building and project development.

So far, the country’s exporting zones board has registered 21 companies in various sectors such as metal fabrication, plastics, agro-processing, textiles, jewellery and machines manufacture. These are projected to generate 1,400 jobs.

Baah-Wiredu is also confident that the reciprocal trade deal called the economic partnership agreement that Ghana has signed with the European Union will enhance Ghana’s export capacity. ‘‘This will open new markets to Ghana’s non-traditional exports and thereby improve foreign exchange earnings from such exports.’’

Despite these efforts by the government, there still remain challenges in terms of access to affordable credit, especially for the non-traditional export sector.