There are very few who know that companies like VF, Levi's and Primark are already sourcing from Tanzania. It has a number of industry-oriented policies and structures in place for anyone working in the cotton-textile-apparel chain. The country is one of the more stable ones in Africa, and has a relatively high GDP growth. It is not without reason that Asian investors are eying Tanzania, reports Jozef De Coster from Dar es Salaam.


The East African country of Tanzania has the potential to become the next hot apparel destination, challenging countries like Myanmar and Ethiopia. That is at least the point of view shared by the country's Textile Development Unit (TDU) and a number of pioneering investors and brands. Tanzania's new Five Year Development Plan (2016-2017 to 2021-2022) is clearly supporting the further development of the cotton-textile-supply chain, but not enough. A brave global vision on the sector's future is still lacking as well as the sense of urgency needed to catapult Tanzania into the list of leading apparel exporters.


Few people know that companies like VF, Levi's and Primark are already sourcing from Tanzania. A number of large buyers from the US and EU either have already visited Tanzania or will soon do so. Just like it successfully did for Kenya and Ethiopia, Phillips Van Heusen (PVH) is trying to warm up some of its Asian suppliers for an investment in Tanzania, also a country that benefits from the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA).


Theoretically, Tanzania has probably more comparative advantages for making/exporting garments than any other country in Africa. 'Tanzania, the best overall location for apparel making in Africa', is the slogan of Tim Armstrong, the investment promotion director of Tanzania's Textile Development Unit (TDU). Of course, the devil is in the details.


Foreign textile and clothing manufacturers, like two visitors who were recently scouting Tanzania in preparation of a possible investment from one UK/ Bangladesh firm and one Indian firm, detected a number of issues and bottlenecks in the country's cotton-textile-apparel supply chain. However, they continued thinking that, given developments in China and South East Asia, the best time to mould Tanzania into a successful apparel export country is now.


The bright side of Tanzania

The TDU is a partnership between the Tanzanian government and the charitable organisation Tanzania Gatsby Trust. Investment promotion is one of its priority areas of work. The TDU was quite successful in drawing the attention of some large buyers and manufacturing groups on Tanzania. Recently, representatives from companies like CherryField (Turkey), TAL Group (Hong Kong), Sae-A (South- Korea), A&A Shandong (China), Needlecraft (Jordan), Pentex UK, Shibufei (China), KAPL (India), Echo (UK), Ridham (India), Arvind (India) and Raymond (India) visited Tanzania. Many other companies are expected to come soon with a delegation this March with a major retailer.