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Fiber to Fashion 2011 - Mauritius : A Platform for Business

16 - 18 March 2011, Mauritius

Nairobi 2018  |  Mauritius 2017  |  Madagascar 2016  |  Ethiopia 2015  |  Kenya 2014  |  NY 2013  |  Ethiopia 2012   |  Mauritius 2011  |  Kenya 2010

Post-Event Highlights

Technology, Innovation and Design Talent Attract International Buyers to Origin Africa Fiber to Fashion Symposium Mauritius 2011

The outlook remains bright for Africa’s cotton, textile and apparel sector fueled by the global demand for cotton, diversification of apparel sourcing to Africa and the growing African middle class who want African-made apparel.  This was the conclusion of the Origin Africa Fiber to Fashion 2011 Symposium and Designer Showcase sponsored by USAID East Africa’s Competitiveness and Trade Expansion  program (USAID/COMPETE) and other partners (Mauritius Export Association, Enterprise Mauritius, and the African Cotton & Textile Industries Federation) from March 16-18 in Mauritius.

The two-day symposium brought together designers, manufacturers and buyers who learned about eco-friendly manufacturing practices, new cotton product development and innovations and how to integrate design and marketing  strategies.

The Origin Africa Designer Showcase and Pan-Africa Graphic Design Show complemented the symposium and demonstrated the practical application of design and technology in apparel.   In the Designer Showcase, Africa’s new and upcoming designers presented their collections to a panel of international judges and connected with African producers and U.S. buyers sourcing from Africa.  As the winner of the Designer Showcase, Fikirte Addis of Ethiopia will present her traditional hand-loomed cotton designs at Africa Fashion Week New York in July. Nima Rawah, a textile and fashion design student at the University of Mauritius, also won in the student category for her collection of tropical exotic bridal wear. Mauritian Graphic Design Show winner Kewin Kotadoo’s “Joy in My Soul” design -  depicting a blind woman who can see the future of Africa - seemed almost prophetic.

Many U.S. firms have made a conscious decision to look at Africa as a new sourcing origin and now see Africa as the potential ‘new frontier’.  The conference culminated in a Buyer/Sellers Platform led by Origin Africa’s Friends of Africa Apparel Advisory Board, a group of 33 business leaders in the U.S. apparel sector committed to increasing trade with Africa.  U.S. buyers like PPR/Redcats Group and the Orvis Group provided insights to African manufacturers about what is needed by U.S. companies doing business with Africa and highlighted the need for African factories to adapt to the U.S. market.

Marsha Powell, the Turkey and Africa Program Director for Cotton Incorporated, U.S.A., and other experts provided education and presentations to over two hundred business people and design students. Symposium attendees were also presented with new financial tools and innovations to support export trade and increase investment in Africa. USAID/COMPETE’s  ‘Purchase Order Finance’ initiative for example will allow producers to use purchase orders and other contractual agreements with international buyers as collateral to obtain loans. COFACE, a Paris-based risk management company, also announced plans to provide export credit risk insurance to the African market providing financial protection to exporters - including those selling garments to the U.S. under the African Growth and Opportunity Act - in the event that a buyer defaults on payments.

Feedback from Fashion Symposium participants asserts that the Origin Africa global awareness campaign is changing perceptions about doing business in Africa.  U.S. Buyer Nick Moreno of the PPR/Redcats Group, the third largest e-retailer in the world, said, “I look forward to working with all of you in the future. We are definitely going to place business in Mauritius and Africa.”

Origin Africa is an initiative of producers, designers, small businesses, exporters, buyers and retailers dedicated to improving African trade in the areas of textiles/apparel, cut flowers, specialty foods, home décor, and fashion accessories.  To date Origin Africa has generated over $50 million in new business exports to the U.S. under the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) and that figure continues to grow.  

Professional designers and countries represented included:

  • Samson Ssenkaaba - Uganda
  • John Kaveke - Kenya
  • Mustafa Hassanali - Tanzania
  • Fikirte Addis - Ethiopia
  • Cathy Kamthunzi - Malawi
  • Towani Clarke - Zambia
  • Anna Ngann Yonn - Cameroon
  • Titi Ademola - Ghana
  • Eijro Amos Tafiri - Nigeria
  • Julian Anjavola - Madagascar
  • Santasha Houareau - Seychelles
  • Sweetie Ramlagun – Mauritius
  • Student designers included:
  • Bhavna Shibchurn – Fashion and Design Institute Mauritius
  • Nima Rawah – University of Mauritius
  • Jilloo Veenasha – Fashion and Design Institute Mauritius
  • Quattuor Designers – University of Mauritius