AbTF Intensifies Dialogue with African Retail Market

28.01.2014

Young Kenya Based Economist Janet Mumassabba in an Interview about Challenges and Opportunities for CmiA in Sub Saharan Africa

The Aid by Trade Foundation is expanding its activities in Sub-Saharan Africa with a new Kenyan team member, Janet Mumassabba. Her knowledge of the Eastern African retail market, will help the foundation strengthen demand for CmiA cotton on the African continent. In our interview, the young Kenyan talks about that market opportunities and challenges facing Cotton made in Africa in Sub-Saharan Africa.

1. CmiA: What did you do before joining the CmiA team in Kenya?

Mumassabba: Before I joined Cotton made in Africa, I studied Business Development in Enterprise Development and Management in Kenya. I am currently working as the East African Textile Development Manager at the Inter Region Economic Network (IREN) which is a leading independent African think tank for economic prosperity in Africa.

2.  CmiA: What is the main focus of your work for Cotton made in Africa?

Mumassabba: The main objective of my work is to increase the demand for the CmiA brand on the African retail market. To reach the large range of African textile retailers and inform them about Cotton made in Africa, CmiA and IREN Kenya will offer a platform for all stakeholders in the textile value chain, bringing together retailers, suppliers, and producers under the IREN-CmiA East Africa “Made in Africa” umbrella brand. The “Made in Africa” brand will seek to capitalize on the growing middle class segment in the region. It will further offer a platform for stakeholders in the textile industry to enhance the textile value chain in East Africa.

3. CmiA: What are your main tasks in your current position?

Mumassabba: Besides informing retailers about CmiA and bringing them together, my job involves matchmaking textile industries to textile retailers while sourcing cotton from within Africa. Matchmaking is meant to link the major players in the textile sector with a view of growing the textile value chain in Africa. This will enhance the living standards of African cotton farmers and contribute to the national economy of African nations

4. What do you think will be your biggest challenge to reach this goal

Mumassabba: My biggest challenge will be that local textile industries will have to meet international standards required by retailers in Africa. Furthermore, a policy framework has to be set up that supports the CmiA initiative.

5. African Fashion is a growing trend in Europe, but not many people have a clear understanding of the “typical” African consumer. Could you give us a brief description of the main characteristics?

Mumassabba: African consumers are not different from any other consumers in the world: Their consumption is affected by income levels, environment, character, as well as traditional or cultural beliefs. One trend that can be detected when walking on Kenyan markets is tight jeans and chiffon outfits. As family ties and traditions can be very strong in an African context, a certain brand can be favored by a consumer simply because that’s what the family has been using over time. As in many other African countries, pupils have to wear school uniforms in Kenya. Parents therefore have to purchase textiles in accordance to the official requirements.

6. What are the experiences you made so far when “selling CmiA”?

Mumassabba: Many retailers are searching for a regional product and the mark of the quality check body in Kenya – the so called Kenya Bureau of standards. But a look at the Kenyan market reveals that up to 80% of all sold products are imported. Consequently, the locally produced cotton offered by Cotton made in Africa could be a real shift for the retail sector. By working with the African textile value chain, Cotton made in Africa can not only enhance the living standards of the African smallholder cotton farmers, but can also contribute to the growth of national economies in Africa. CmiA significantly contributes to the economic development in Sub Saharan Africa by offering a win-win situation for cotton and textile producers.

(Interview by C. Bredehorst)

IREN Kenya: The Inter Region Economic Network is a leading independent African think tank that promotes ideas and strategies geared towards causing prosperity in Africa through free enterprise and sound public policy. IREN’s key focus areas include targeted events, trainings, research, consultancy, communication and its flagship magazine: The African Executive – published in English every Wednesday. Mr. James Shikwati, member of the Board of Trustees of the Aid by Trade Foundation, founded the Inter Region Economic Network (IREN) to be a leader in improving living standards in Africa through free enterprise. http://www.irenkenya.com/