Making a Difference in Africa

October 17, 2015

We’re proud of SanMar’s global sourcing efforts that allow us to positively impact the lives of the thousands of people making our products. From revitalizing communities and paying a fair wage to creating jobs for people previously unable to work outside the home, it’s one way we all truly make a difference.

I’m particularly proud of our efforts in East Africa. Last year, we celebrated five years of sourcing from Tanzania. africa2It’s been an amazing experience helping to open doors for people in the region previously unable to work outside the home. Specifically, 80% of the employees at the sewing facility are women who, through these jobs, are able to create a better life for themselves, their families and their community. We were early pioneers working with manufacturers in East Africa and plan to expand into other countries there.

In support of these efforts, I recently had phone calls with our elected officials to extend the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA). AGOA is a trade preference program that provides duty-free imports of certain products, including apparel, from Africa. The goal is to support the continent’s growth in apparel sourcing and make it a competitive force in the marketplace. AGOA passed the deeply divided Senate with an almost unanimous 99-1 vote.

It is predicted that East Africa will grow into a major garment-sourcing hub. A recent McKinsey & Company report estimates that by 2035 there will be more than 900 million working-age people in the region, making this population as large as China’s is today.

It’s amazing how far East Africa has progressed in the past two decades. So long as we can reliability source high-quality goods, keep costs manageable and support working wage jobs we’ll continue seeking opportunities in the region.