To Stop Relying on Western Hand-Me-Downs, African Countries Are Importing Chinese Textile Companies
Every day the workers at C&H Garment Factory are required to learn a few words of Chinese. Today’s lesson, written on a whiteboard at the back of a humming factory floor, is the numbers 8, 9, and 10—written in Kinyarwanda, English, and Mandarin. “We’re a Chinese company so we want to introduce a little Chinese culture to them,” the textile company’s owner, Candy Ma, tells Quartz.
Like many workers in China, the staff are required to do group exercises before beginning their day. Signs with the words “diligence,” “quality,” and “responsibility,” written in English and Chinese, hang from the rafters. Chinese and Rwandan flags fly outside the glass-paneled building that houses C&H, which began operations last year in the Kigali Special Economic Zone on the outskirts of the capital.
Ma’s factory is the culmination of recent government efforts to establish a Rwandan textile industry and expand the country’s almost nonexistent manufacturing sector. For Rwanda, it’s also about moving on from being another third-world African country dressed in hand-me-downs donated from Western countries.
Ma has partnered with the Rwandan government to train locals in garment manufacturing, making clothing to sell locally as well as to export. One of the project’s goals, according to Rwanda’s minister of trade, is to stop relying on second-hand clothing and save the “struggling dignity” of the Rwandan people.
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