Kenya’s apparel industry is small, with an estimated 30,000 workers, versus the industry in Bangladesh that employs 4.2 million people. In Kenya, the industry comprises only six per cent of the small manufacturing sector. The country is now trying to grab a larger slice of the global clothing market. Textile manufacturers are being lured with subsidies and reduced power costs.
However, Kenya has competition closer home. In Ethiopia, energy and labor costs are lower than those in Kenya. Ethiopia has also set up functioning business parks for factories. However, Ethiopian workers are unused to life in a factory and labor retention beyond six months is difficult. In contrast, Kenyans are expert clothes makers.
The death of several workers in Bangladesh factory collapses is also forcing global buyers to re-evaluate their sourcing. Since Kenya is the door to East Africa, many international companies have selected Kenya as their regional center. In Kenya, there is a robust private sector consisting of a large number of foreign investors.
Kenya’s textile industry can be divided into cotton growing and ginning, yarn and thread production, fabric and apparel manufacture. There are some 35 textile mills in the country. Demand for textiles in the country is growing at 3.8 per cent a year.