Search for Ever Cheaper Garment Factories Leads to Africa

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

By Christina Passariello and Suzanne Kapner

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia—At the Radisson Blu hotel here last year, a senior fashion executive met with several of his top Asian apparel suppliers. His plea: Open for business in Africa.

“Africa is a huge opportunity to demonstrate how the industry can work together,” said Colin Browne, managing director of product supply and Asian sourcing for VF Corp. , which owns such brands as Lee, Wrangler and Timberland. He pointed out to the factory owners a key advantage in Africa: it’s one of the few places where it’s possible to go from fiber to factory in one place.

Africa is the final frontier in the global rag trade—the last untapped continent with cheap and plentiful labor. Ethiopia’s garment sector has no minimum wage, compared with Bangladesh, where workers earn at least $67 a month, according to the International Labor Organization. Garment workers in Ethiopia started at about $21 a month as of last year, the Ethiopian government said.

Source: The Wall Street Journal (link opens in a new window)