Six years ago, Mrs. Chantale Guiraud, CEO of the Ivorian weaving company Kehanon, sent samples of her cloth to American wholesalers after their scoping mission in Cote d’Ivoire. But the samples she sent to the U.S. failed the quality test: colors were bleeding in the wash and some cloths were fraying.
“It was a disappointment for me,” she said. “I saw a market opportunity closing right in front of me.”
Following the advice of one American buyer, she traveled to Burkina Faso and Niger for weaving and color fixing training, which improved her product quality drastically, enabling her to enter U.S. markets.
On September 26, 2017, Mrs. Guiraud shared her experiences with 40 artisans and weavers from Abidjan and other inland cities of Cote d’Ivoire who attended a workshop on color fixing organized by the Trade Hub and the Association pour la Promotion des Exportations en Cote d’Ivoire (APEX-CI). Over the past year, APEX-CI, which hosts the country’s AGOA Trade Resource Center, has collaborated with the Trade Hub to build the technical and organizational capabilities of Ivorian companies to reach international market standards and increase exports to the U.S. under the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA).
AGOA’s extension to 2025 allows sub-Saharan products to enter the U.S. market duty-free. While the soon-to-be-unveiled Ivorian AGOA National Strategy has selected textiles as a priority, the industry has struggled with a quality gap due to an unskilled workforce and challenges accessing raw materials.
The training at the Grand-Bassam artisanal center outside Abidjan was an opportunity for textile stakeholders to understand the challenges of reaching international standards, learn practical coloring processes, and exchange experiences. The presence of middle-range companies such as O’sey Textiles helped build commercial partnerships and frame quality challenges at an African industrial scale.
“This training is coming at the right time,” said Mr. Philippe Kouame Aka, CEO of O’Sey. “Artisans are an important part of our business as dyeing the cloth properly is a crucial part of the quality process. Improving their technical skills is an added-value to boost the quality of our products to reach international markets.”
APEX-CI selected cabinet Enval, one of the first certified textile laboratories in West Africa, and Mr. Mamadou Koivogui, an international consultant to run the training. Participants benefitted from a theoretical presentation and practical demonstration of color fixing.
The Ministry of Commerce, represented by Chief of Service Ali Coulibaly, saluted the initiative: “Coloring used to be a traditional process based on natural plants. Nowadays, with the influx of chemical products on the local markets, artisans do not know proper dosages. If the quality of the thread is not good and the formula is not respected, the color will never fix appropriately. We hope to duplicate this training and lead further researches to evaluate handmade products’ potential.”