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Outfitting for export success in Ghana
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Outfitting for export success in Ghana

On the wall of the Sleek Garments factory, overlooking a bustling assembly line of 300 workers, is a sign: “Quality First, Quantity Second.” Sleek’s founder and CEO, Nora Bannerman, is determined to maintain that philosophy as Sleek shifts into mass production, sewing thousands of shirts bound for Ross Stores, the second largest discount clothing retailer in the U.S.
After all, Bannerman said, Sleek’s emphasis on quality convinced a sourcing agent to place the order for 75,000 casual rayon shirts, shipped in early 2007. The agent had heard of Sleek from California Link, another garment factory, which along with Sleek is part of Ghana’s blooming apparel manufacturing cluster.

Incentives offered by Ghana’s government have encouraged the relocation and building of several clothing factories, many of them exporting to the U.S. under the African Growth and Opportunities Act (AGOA), which waives duties on select goods from eligible African countries.

“We are putting Ghana on the radar as an exporter under AGOA of high-quality garments,” Bannerman said. In 2002, Bannerman’s fashion shop produced its largest order -- 10,000 garments – qualifying it to participate in Ghana’s Presidential Special Initiative for apparel. The program provided access to loan guarantees for equipment acquisition, training, and a factory site in the free zone, which waives import taxes as long as companies there export at least 80 percent of output.

Bannerman also receives support from USAID’s West Africa Trade Hub, which conducts industry-specific training and accompanies clients to major trade shows in the U.S. in order to facilitate deal-making– most recently at the Sourcing at MAGIC show in Las Vegas in February 2007. The Trade Hub provided financial planning services and advised Bannerman as she sought pre-export financing to purchase fabric for the Ross order. Bannerman is now negotiating Sleek’s next large order with a U.S. uniform company and planning to triple her workforce over the next few years.

“I dream of brands coming out of Ghana, supplying African markets as well as the huge U.S. market,” Bannerman said. “Everything is possible in this industry.”

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