Lance Clark, founder of Soul of Africa in Ethiopia
Parliament Event, Soul of Africa & Value Added Africa.
Tuesday 22nd November 2016
As consumers become increasingly socially conscious, demanding higher standards and transparency in product supply chains, fashion brands and retailers are increasingly looking to the African market as a promising source of goods for the future. Well-known brands such as Stella McCartney, Vivienne Westwood, ASOS and H&M stand at the forefront of buyers at this emerging source, pioneering in their vision of Africa’s budding fashion industry. This shift stands in the context of the vulnerability felt by many brands as the result of their dependence on Asian supply chains. What’s more, the consumer is granted access to unparalleled insight into the true conditions in which products are made, with public outcry following in the wake of disasters such as the collapse of a Primark factory in Bangladesh in 2013.
Currently, there are multiple objective factors that poise Africa to continue to flourish as a source for finished goods. For example, State policy in Ethiopia supports local garment making factories by providing cheap energy to the garment sector. As a result, investment has swiftly followed in spinning and weaving industries.
What’s more, the African market currently benefits from EU policy that enforces 0% tariffs and 0%quotas on sales into the EU from the African continent, including into the UK. This provides both garment and shoe makers in Africa a 12% advantage over the competitive Chinese market. Designed to support development in some of the poorest countries in the World, this policy will fall into question in the wake of the vote for Brexit in June this year. Can these industries rely on a continuation of 0% tariffs?
This month will see a formal address in The House of Lords, opening an insightful discussion that focusses on Africa’s growing garments and leather goods industry and its relationship with Britain in the wake of Brexit. The event has been organised by social enterprise Soul of Africa Shoes and sustainable market developers Value Added Africa, and will be chaired by Crossbench peer and trustee of the Aid by Trade Foundation Baroness Lola Young of Hornsey. With the aim of presenting the current challenges and opportunities associated with supply chains and the manufacture of goods in Africa, the event will combine the expert knowledge of those at the forefront of manufacturing and sourcing in Africa, resulting in a policy paper that will call on the British Government to guarantee a continuation of 0% tariffs for leather goods and garment importers.
Soul of Africa has been successfully operating on the African continent since 2003. Founded by sixth generation shoe-maker Lancelot Clark of Clark’s shoes, the Soul of Africa Trust is a registered charity that produces shoes in multiple African countries. The shoes are sold by both Clarks Shoes and Vivobarefoot, a minimalist shoe company started by Lance’s son Galahad, on the scientifically supported premise that modern, unnaturally shaped shoes can damage the health of our feet. Soul of Africa is in the process of establishing a brand new production line in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and will provide the business case for production in Africa at the event on November 29th. The social enterprise professes 4 fundamental values: Hire local employees, train individuals in the skill of shoe making, source materials responsibly and from local regions whenever possible and re-invest in the projects that sustainably grow and enhance the community. The re-investment of profits by the Soul of Africa Trust has helped support over 17,000 children and young people in care and education to date.
Soul of Africa’s current range of shoes, produced in Tunisia and Ethiopia and distributed by Clarks and Vivobarefoot respectively, has been awarded the Proudly Made in Africa Award, a label that marks excellence in African industry for retail goods by assuring quality, ethical production and African-made origin. The award is the brain child of event co-organisers Value Added Africa, who work with a network of over 500 African suppliers in pre-market, marketing and sales support, in order to develop sustainable channels to export markets for African-made goods.
Alongside Soul of Africa and Value Added Africa, the event’s panel will include experts Nebil Kellow of Enterprise Partners, a DfID-funded programme supporting the development of light manufacturing sectors in Africa, and Andreas Streubig of the Otto Group, who stand at the forefront of innovation for sustainability in large-scale garments supply chains. With the room promised to be packed with king-pins in the field, ranging all the way from high-end fashion buyers to policy makers, we eagerly await the answer to one of the most important political questions of the sustainable fashion industry : Will 0% tariffs remain post-Brexit?
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