By the time you read this I will be in Vienna Austria giving a Keynote speech at the Pan African Forum Austria. This week long event focuses on African Textile and specifically explores the impact of these fabrics on the poverty amongst rural African women in particular.Blog Action Day 2012- The Power of We
Textile weaving in Africa has a long, varied and rich history but faces real challenges from the modern world and here a few that come to mind immediately
Routes to market- traditionally woven textile may not always appeal to us as consumers and buyers for Fashion Houses are aware of this and will be reluctant to stock something that we the consumers will not buy
Cost of production– authentic African fabrics are still handwoven, the work is labour intensive, and this means that it is near impossible to scale some of the enterprises and as such making the end product a niche product as by definition a very expensive product.
Globalization– you would think this would be a good thing but not really, as the geographic distance narrows, folk are able to reach some of the remote places where these fabrics are produced, copy the designs and reproduce them in a factory somewhere in China and as the traditional weavers are out of work just like that. In addition to most of us Africans who see the value of these textiles, prefer the cheaper and perhaps more fashionable mass produced fabrics from India and or China
Urbanization- Rural to Urban migration is at an all time high and with it, traditions such as weaving are dying out.
Food security- in the Tapia forests of Madagascar, silk producing moth are also a source of protein for the natives, and therefore the eggs are eaten leaving no cocoons to produce the silk from. Furthermore, forests have been cut back for farming which has destroyed the habitat for the silk moth
Technology- as mentioned above, it has become increasingly easy for the patterns, designs of the ancienct african textiles and fabrics to be copied and reproduced at such high scales in the mechanised factories of India and China which the traditional weavers cannot compete with
Infrastructure- The cost of production is compounded by the cost of freight which is directly linked to poor infrastructure
Competition- the more technologically advanced countries are not only able to copy and reproduce African designs but are able to produce cheaper fabrics on such large scales that African weavers cannot compete with. The women also face competition from the second hand clothing market.
But we as consumers have The Power to change some of this if we
Recognise the role of African fabrics in income generation for women, contribution to stemming climate change
Acknowledge the role of women in the economic, political and social development of the continent