Fashion helping Africa's women and business, says ITC

(AGI) Turin, June 12 - Turning Africa's artisans into small andmedium-sized enterprise owners and transforming its women intobusinesswomen, is key to developing the continent and itseconomy, said the Executive Director of the International TradeCenter (ITC), Arancha Gonzalez. The ITC's "Ethics Fashion"project, which was set up in a number of African countriesincluding Kenya, is rapidly becoming a business model, the headof the Geneva-based organisation affirmed. "The slogan for ourproject is 'Work, not charity'," Gonzalez told AGI in Turin,where she is attending the 9th session of the InternationalChamber of Commerce. "Our aim

(AGI) Turin, June 12 - Turning Africa's artisans into small andmedium-sized enterprise owners and transforming its women intobusinesswomen, is key to developing the continent and itseconomy, said the Executive Director of the International TradeCenter (ITC), Arancha Gonzalez. The ITC's "Ethics Fashion"project, which was set up in a number of African countriesincluding Kenya, is rapidly becoming a business model, the headof the Geneva-based organisation affirmed. "The slogan for ourproject is 'Work, not charity'," Gonzalez told AGI in Turin,where she is attending the 9th session of the InternationalChamber of Commerce. "Our aim is to ensure that these nations'economies function well, that they are productive, competitive,and above all safer. We talk with governments about topics suchas safety, rules of commerce, simplifying customs regulations,and dialogue between the public and private sectors. We speakwith local financial and investment institutions too," shesaid. "Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) make up 90percent of all business, in Italy just as in Benin. Helpingthis 90 percent, which creates 40 to 50 percent of all jobs, isnot possible without institutional support from organisationssuch as the ITC. These nations face the same challenges as us,they're unfamiliar with the markets, and cannot obtain credit.The risks are different, of course, but the main issue is thequality of their products," she stated. The ITC therefore takesaction at this level by educating and training local businessesto improve their products and then export them. "There is aquality and competition problem in Africa," Gonzalez said."Many businesses can't export because no one is buying; notjust Europeans, but Americans, Chinese, and Brazilians too.We've conducted training for businesses in Ethiopia, Rwanda,and Burundi in the coffee sector. We've supported women and theresults have been incredible, especially in Kenya, where 4000women work in high fashion. We've helped them produce clothingthat has been sold to McCartney, Viviane Westwood, and Armani.We've gotten amazing results. Women who used to work for undera dollar a day now work for 12 dollars. We established abusiness that was then sold to a female Kenyan tycoon, and thewomen who work there are now out of the slums and living inhouses in the city, providing food and education for theirchildren. "Markets have unbelievable power in reducingpoverty," Gonzalez emphasized. The ITC's next goal, she said,is to "look for multinational companies in India, China,Europe, and U.S. that are ready to insert a million women intheir chain of production". "We've created a business model andwe intend to pursue it," she concluded.. .