Friday, March 19, 2010

Apparel Export Training Workshop

NEWS BANJUL THE GAMBIA(MB)-The United States Embassy in Banjul in partnership with the USAID West Africa Trade Hub (WATH) based in Accra, Ghana, organised a two-day training session for fashion designers and apparel producers to help enhance their potential to export to the Unite States. The specialized training from 22 to 23 February 2010 was held at the Sheraton Hotel.
Reading a statement on behalf of the US Ambassador, the deputy chief of mission, Ms Cindy Cregg, said the workshop was the fulfillment of a long standing desire of the US Embassy to assist Gambian fashion designers and apparel producers to improve their production skills. This is to ensure that their products are competitive in the US market, she added.
According to her, fashion plays an essential part of everyday life in the Gambia, adding that “everyday beautiful fabrics are cut, sewn, dyed and designed right here in houses ad tailoring shops both large and small”.
“Let us not forget that in Beijing at the 2008 Summer Olympics, at the Opening Day Parade, the Gambia was voted the Best Dressed Delegation in the world”.
Dilating on the training session, Ms Cregg stated that the training workshop was part of their ongoing efforts to help The Gambia maximize the benefits from the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), which she described as the cornerstone of US trade and investment policy toward sub-Saharan Africa.
Since 2000, she said, AGOA has broken down barriers to US markets and eliminated import duties on more than 6000 products. It is a vehicle for private sector led growth that can improve the lives of millions of men, women and children across Africa, she added.
The Gambia, she continued, became AGOA eligible in 2002 and eligibility has been renewed annually ever since, and The Gambia has always qualified for eligibility since then.
In 2002, The Gambia was eligible for the Textile Visa which is an additional requirement governing the export of textile and apparels under AGOA adding that neighboring countries were already benefitting.
“We need to focus on how to maximize the AGOA opportunity. The Gambia and the US have invested a great effort in supplying you the tools you need to begin exporting to the International market”.
“We strongly believe that the apparel and fashion industry is one of the sectors under AGOA in which The Gambia, will be most competitive”, she went on, adding that “the beautiful dresses that you are wearing today, made by yourselves, are a clear example of the excellent design and creativity of Gambian fashion designers”.
During the two-day session, Ms Cregg explained, their experts from WATH will explain to participants the AGOA export procedures and they will review the skills required in modern apparel production such as design, pattern making, cutting, production, finishing, labeling and packing.
“Once you have been given these tools it will be up to you to use them in your daily processes”.
After this workshop, “you will know how the AGOA process works and you will have the expertise to produce garments that reach the quality standards required by the international market”.
According to Ms Cregg, the participants were selected because “we now that for many of you, this training will open the door to international training, travel and greater financial success”.
She told the participants to take the opportunity to learn more during the training workshop, saying that “it is important for all of you to understand that this is not just an individual effort but one that will require support from your colleagues.
“Please remember that competition is your friend. Competition makes you achieve higher levels of excellence, and high quality products”.
At the end of the workshop, WATH officials will conduct interviews to determine who is export ready”, she revealed, adding that some of them will be selected to travel to Dakar to visit Gora Atchj’s garment plant in Dakar to see in practice what they have leaned in theory.
In addition, the US Embassy, she further disclosed, is planning to lead a delegation of fashion designers and textile dealers to the Textiles and Sewn Products Industry Week in Atlanta, Georgia, in May 2010 which is an exhibition in the USA.
“This exhibition will expose you to high quality fabrics and to the latest equipment and technology in apparel production”.
“When I (Cindy Cregg) return to America, I personally would like to turn over the tag on a piece of apparel and see the ‘Made in The Gambia’ label on clothing in our stores”.
She then expressed her passion for the industry and commitment to their business. She assured them of the US Embassy’s support and collaboration with the Ministry and other US agencies, adding that they will try to promote and increase trade links between the Gambia and the United States.
The Minister of Trade and Employment, Baboucarr Jallow, spoke of the importance of the training workshop, saying that “the nature of today’s training is highly commendable and in the right direction that I believe would enhance practical expertise”.
According to the Minister, the Gambian private sector cannot do everything at once, but needs collaboration, and the apparel and textile sector could represent a good starting point.
Minister Jallow noted that the American market has its quality requirements, and that the market calls for hard work and dedication from the fashion designers.
“Some of our neighbours are successfully exporting to the US market, and I see no reason why we cannot push ourselves a little bit more”, he added, and urged them to seize the moment to critically assess and challenge themselves to penetrate the American market.
According to Mr. Jallow, there are some key areas that needed to be addressed before they can make any meaningful attempts to penetrate the U.S. market.
“We all know problems persist in the area of neat and acceptable finishing, consistent pattern, cutting, timely delivery of orders, dealing with large orders, to name a few”, the Minister said.
He called on the sector to work together as a team, but not individually “Try to find in what ways you can complement each other’s area of specialization, and pull your resources together”, he advised.
The Trade Ministry will continue supporting the private sector in the textile and apparel industry to make optimal use of the AGOA initiative.
The director of the West African Trade Hub Dakar Office, Makhtar Thiam also spoke at the opening of the workshop, and called on the participants to make best use of AGOA.
He added that the US Embassy in Banjul is the most dynamic embassy in the sub-region.
“I worked with 21 countries in the sub-region, but to me the US Embassy in Banjul is the most dynamic”.
According to Mr. Thiam, USAID WATH provides technical assistance to over 350 companies in six value chains across 21 countries in the region that is linking them with buyers and investors, and preparing them to present bankable requests for financing and investment.
The Trade Hub works with commercial banks, multi-lateral institutions and investors to promote exports.

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