The textile industry is becoming an increasingly important economic sector for some African countries. But how can factories in these countries become more productive while providing a socially responsible workplace? An approach adopted in Ghana demonstrates that better trained workers and humane conditions are not mutually exclusive.
Made in Morocco, Made in Ethiopia, Made in Kenya. A glance at the label in an item of clothing tells us where it was made. Low wages make African countries attractive business locations compared with their Asian competitors. Although Ghana has experience in textile and clothing production for the regional market, it lacks export expertise. The aim is to develop the textile sector. At the same time, one of the lessons learned from mistakes made in Asia is that commercially viable social standards need to be implemented.
Improving production conditions
Since January 2019, a development partnership with the private sector has been supporting Ghana’s growing textile sector in making business models socially responsible and cost-effective. The aim is to create 1,200 new jobs within three years. To achieve this, the GIZ is cooperating with companies including the Dutch-Ghanaian clothing manufacturer DTRT Apparel, the British company Ethical Apparel Africa, the German supplier of needles and machine parts for the textile production sector Groz-Beckert and the U.S. pattern technology provider Gerber Technology.
The project is part of the develoPPP.de programme launched by the German Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) to promote commercial initiatives that are beneficial for development. As part of BMZ's special initiative on “Training and Job Creation,” develoPPP.de supports initiatives by companies that invest in better qualification of skilled workers and create jobs in selected African countries.
Fit for export
Staff training is particularly important for the local textile companies involved. In Ghana, very few schools provide training for skilled jobs in the textile industry. GIZ is supporting the creation of a new training and development department for industrial textile production at one of Accra’s largest vocational colleges, Accra Technical Training Centre (ATTC)
The aim is to prepare staff and trainees for export production. Participants will take part in various courses including digital pattern making and grading, industrial engineering, quality assurance, and monitoring skills. The modern training equipment was supplied by Gerber and Groz-Beckert, and these companies are also providing training staff. Furthermore, with support from GIZ and its partners, ATTC is also offering training courses for experts at middle management level.
Productivity and compliance are interdependent
The courses at ATTC will not only provide training and qualifications for staff at the companies, they will also improve job prospects for young Ghanaians. Higher productivity and better training for skilled workers give the companies more scope to increase their employees’ wages. The incomes of staff at local firms are thus set to rise by around 20 percent.
Textile factories invest in social improvements and well-being: KAD Manufacturing based in Accra employs 130 people and is also committed to social responsibility. The company provides lunch for its workforce, promotes dialogue between staff and management and offers training. Linda Ampah, Chief Executive Officer, says about corporate occupational safety, “We have already achieved a great deal in safeguarding the health and safety of our staff. To ensure we continue to meet international standards, we want to become even better.”
On behalf of BMZ, GIZ and its partners are also working in this area: in order to raise awareness of social standards, GIZ is fostering dialogue between employers and employees at the textile factories. Mixed teams made up of managers and workers boost participation in corporate decision-making processes, and thus help to improve working conditions and occupational safety. Over the next three years, around 2,100 employees are to benefit from the new working conditions in Ghana’s textile market.