Textile Capitalism in Africa: Competition, Innovation and the African Challenge

Thursday, 14 July 2016: 09:45
Location: Hörsaal 6A P (Neues Institutsgebäude (NIG))
Oral Presentation
Esther DARKU, University of Fort Hare, South Africa
Wilson AKPAN, University of Fort Hare, South Africa
The clothing and textile industry is an important economic sector; it heralded the industrialisation process in most African countries in the 20th Century. While the sector has since its inception has been characterised by periods of growth and decline, recent global economic trends and the level of interaction with and integration into the global value chain system have had a tremendous influence on its development. Even so, for a major sector that is crucial for Africa’s industrial growth as well as economic and socio-cultural development, its changing fortunes have both local and global relevance. Using empirical literature this paper traces the trajectory of textile capitalism in Africa from the 20th century to the present day. With examples from Ghana and South Africa the paper outlines the challenges facing the textile industry internationally and continentally, the various ways the industry has responded to global competition, and the contradictions embedded in some of the responses. In the particular case of Ghana and South Africa, the paper examines the ways in which the textile and clothing sector has innovated and transformed in the face of global competition. In the main, the paper argues that textile and clothing industry in Africa has reacted differently in different periods, and that responses and innovation strategies have broadly reflected the resources available in a given economic era as well as the socio-cultural relevance of the sector in a given time and place.