Nigerian-Made Funtua Fabric Aims to Rebuild a Struggling Industry
FUNTUA, Nigeria - A critical component in any fashion business is in its raw materials. Take a look at Brother Vellies, who sources rubber from South Africa to produce the sole of its envy-inducing footwear or AAKS, a Ghanaian brand that leverages ecologically harvested raffia from northern Ghana as the foundation for its multicolored bags. The raw material, no matter how innovative the vision, will play a major role in the construction of the final product.
However, what can be said of the protection of the raw materials and textile sector, particularly in Nigeria? In the 1970s, Nigeria boasted over 200+ textile mills and its garment industry was one of the largest employers of labour. By the early 2000s, the textile industry had been significantly underfunded by the Nigerian government. In recent years, the sector has seen little improvement with dozens of mills closing and increasing reliance on imported fabrics. Today, much of the fabrics used to produce clothing is imported from China and India.
Nigeria-based indigenous producer This Is Us NG is out to change the status quo. This Is Us NG is dedicated to making and promoting high quality domestic products, specifically using cotton grown in Funtua in the Katsina State of the country. According to their website, their vision is based on "a world where Made In Nigeria becomes a mark of good design and quality." In their partnership with local cotton producers, involvement with local craftspeople such as indigo dyers and utilizing local financing, This Is Us NG is a modern embodiment of a domestic-oriented business model. By designing uniquely Nigerian products and highlighting their Made in Nigeria supply chain, This Is Us NG wants to make buying Nigerian uncomplicated and undeniable. Their endeavors represent a singular brand's commitment to reinvest in the sector. On a state-level, Kaduna and Cross River have begun and completed construction of two garment factories, respectively, that will in their best intentions bring jobs and skills training to the local populations.
The business implications for a strong local textile sector are not to be ignored. The African Development Bank's Vice President and Special Envoy on Gender Geraldine Fraser-Moleketi shared with The Guardian in October 2016 that "the textile industry value chain begins with the production of cotton and moves through the spinning and twisting of the fibre into yarn, the weaving and knitting of the yarn into fabric, and the bleaching, dying and printing of the fabric to obtain the fashionable garment worn world wide today." The varying stages from raw material to completed garment represent meaningful jobs for an underemployed workforce, support for the next generation in skills training, necessary infrastructure in manufacturing facilities, and overall added value for an industry that could drive GDP and diversify the economy outside of oil. With public and private support, local production of textiles over time can reduce overall costs for domestic brands and ultimately, lower the retail price offered to the end consumer. It will require significant investment and substantial cooperation between the government and new players such as This Is Us NG, but building a healthy and thriving domestic retail economy is a mission worth fighting for in the years to come.