Is the garment factory an investment gone wrong? – Princewill Odidi

The inside of Calabar Garment Factory

By Princewill Odidi, Altanta

From all indications it is obvious the state government is grappling on how to make the garment factory a reality, based on the fact that they had speculated thousands of jobs to be created and running in different shifts. It is obvious mistakes where made, or speculations of its success was overblown against market reality.

First, the garment factory was initiated more on a charity purpose rather than profit purpose. It was designed to provide jobs for women and widows. That was mistake number one.

To compete in today’s international production space, you are competing with some of the worlds best professional tailors drawn from Singapore, Bangladesh and Taiwan, attempting to bring their products to the same market, including Nigeria police and other paramilitary uniforms in Nigeria which are sewn overseas shipped to Nigeria at a far cheaper cost than producing them locally.

Can our women and widows who are not tailors by occupation but made to sew out of economic hardship compete in this market? You know they cannot. We missed it right from project conception.

Mistake number two: If our target market was Nigeria, We did not consider the prevailing market and distribution networks that govern the garment industry in Nigeria. First, Locally, our greatest competition is Aba garments. Aba tailors currently produce for Onitsha markets, Kano and lagos markets. Their distribution network has already captured those markets for over 40 years with available purchase credit lines. Aba garments are now being distributed in Cotonou, Garbon, Accra and all over west africa because of their fine tune professional finishing. Presently Brazilian investors are financing procurement and orders from Aba Market for export purposes. Can our mothers and widows who are made to become tailors out of necessity compete in this market?

Mistake number three, we politicized CRS garment factory at the detriment of profit motive without a thorough feasibility studies. As at now without gainsaying, the government has no plan on how to proceed.

Recommendations:

It is obvious the government cannot run this business. Governments are expected to create enabling environment for business rather than attempting to run it themselves. The state government should immediately put the factory on sale through privatization and use the accrued funds to strengthen other sectors especially education.

Or the state government should enter into a collaborative arrangement with an international merchandising line, to take over the factory and use it as a production line to service their west African markets. For this second option, getting professional tailors to work for stipends salary rather than profit sharing will be a challenge. Aba garments are sewn on a profit sharing arrangement. The state government should immediately seek advice on how to proceed. It is unfortunate before our eyes the garment factory may be history or end up a white elephant project.

I call on the state government, humble yourselves and invite to the drawing table capable hands that can bail you out. If you fail we all fail. Do the needful for the sake of our people who are looking up to you. Time is far gone, the people need to feel the dividends of democracy. It is important the government gets the garment factory right because it is her first completed signature project. If it fails, then obviously every other anticipated project may fail. It’s not late to get it right.

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