The garment factory is one of Ayade’s projects I whole heartedly support and I am definite if properly managed and duplicated in all the three zones in the state, has the ability to generate skilled employment and in the long run we can capture not only the African market and key into her products are wares, we can also key into our tourism industry through garment branding.
This can help reduce our debts in the long term. Come with me, let me walk you through an international industry that has changed nation’s economies, created a multiplayer effect on skilled employment generation, and stabilized economies in developing nations.
We have a choice to get it right or allow it fail. If we can answer the following questions positively, then we are on the part to success.
1. A few weeks ago, we were informed 600 people were shortlisted for hire, have they resumed work? Do we have job orders coming in to keep them busy? How long will the government ministry run this place? Are the plans to privatize this venture or create a special purpose vehicle to take it to the next level?
2. What are the plans to key this project into the international garment industry? Have we identified a line of product specialization? Have we reviewed the market demand and structure for mass produced fabrics in Nigeria and how this may key into our products in the factory?
3. What are the current market structures in this industry in Nigeria? Who are our present or would be competitors? How organized are out competitors and what are their immediate markets? What are our competitors’ challenges and how do we plan to surmount them? How do we plan to penetrate our competitors markets or at most take them over?
4. What is the need analysis of fabrics made in Nigeria? How will infrastructure inefficiencies within Nigeria affect our distribution efforts and profit margins? What sectors of the garment industry attracts investors or investment income? Is it production, distribution, marketing or sales? To what extent are we strategically positioned to attract the right type of investors and in the right sub sector?
5. How professionally trained are our 600 artisans? Are they the best hands to bring in professionalism in our products and in turn guarantee a favorable quality control in terms of competition with our peers? Or are they a product of charitable quota to attract widowhood sympathy even at the cost of quality assurance and profit maximization?
6. Do we have plan B for this project in the event plan A fails? What are our parameters for success? What are our plans for product branding and what are our target markets? Do we plan to source for government uniform supply contracts, or we plan to compete with the Aba garment industry already in existence?
7. If we plan to source for government agency uniforms, who are our competitors and do we have the capacity to compete in that sector? If we plan to compete with Aba garment production, do we have an independent distribution and credit network just as Aba does or do we plan to engage Aba market distributors keying into their market networks in Kano, Lagos, Onitsha and some West African Countries? How prepared are we?
8. On plan B, in the event we cannot mop up adequate technical capacity to run this project successfully, I would rather suggest we key into the World Bank entrepreneurship program for Nigeria. Over 300 million dollars has been approved for Nigeria to aid small skilled employment training recently. The state government can comfortably key into training programs in the garment factory using World Bank technical assistance and funding. However, I believe plan A will work, but let us keep plan B on the table.
9. I will personally not recommend we attempt to build our business model based on government supplies, because of inconsistencies and product interest involved, I would also not recommend we attempt to compete with Aba garment industries since their model is built on individual entrepreneurs producing for a distribution network that provides small upfront credit facilities for production, rather I would recommend we create our own market niche.
10. What do I mean? Due to lack of infrastructure and logistics, it is important we do not enter into this garment business just to keep the factory busy and continue to pay salaries so we are not laughed at by critics. This is a possibility, Let us get it right from day one. Let us take on a model that upon placements, cargo can be air shipped to Calabar, produced and shipped out within minimum cost due to minimal weight and durability.
11. Let us build a garment factory model similar to Aurelio Valentino of Italy, they focus on men’s silk ties, scarf and collar wraps and nothing more. We do not need to own cotton farms to break even with this model. We can obtain supplies from international market bid platforms and put our people into business. Some of their ties sell as much as hundred dollars, all we need are skilled garment makers preferably university graduates who can blend professionalism and expertise.
Let us build a model similar to Cosair neckwear company of New Orleans USA, they specialize in men and women ties and neck wears capturing the southern USA markets and key departmental stores,
Let us build a garment factory brand similar to Dinghao Group fashion company of China, they are leading exporter of silk ties, women scarfs and small garments popular in the tourism industries, they presently cover markets in USA Europe and Japan.
I am recommending ties and scarfs because they are products within the garment industries that are light weight, can easily be shipped to Calabar and air freighted back to destination with little cost and efficiency.
With the cost associated with this products, we can easily break even and still make profits amidst the competition.
I would further recommend that Government focus on this industry spreading it all over the state and let Cross River State be known as West African garment industry headquarters specializing in export market promotion.
While I understand the government intends to spread her wings to different projects and enterprises, I would rather recommend she focuses on building a brand garment industry as her key Signature.
It is better we put our collective skills and get one two or three projects right, rather than multiple concepts that we lack adequate capacity.
To get it right, the project has to be market driven and profit determined, it does not need to be politically driven or attempting to fill a charitable void. Markets are impersonal, if the Chinese can get it right, yes we can!
Princewill Odidi is a development consultant writing from Atlanta USA.