Acting Managing Director, Bank of Industry, Mr. Waheed Olagunju has said the bank is willing to increase funding to the cotton, textile and apparel industry from the existing N1 billion fashion fund.
Olagunju disclosed this in Abuja, on Friday, during a masterclass session organised by the BOI to enhance capacity of entrepreneurs in the fashion industry.
He noted that the effort was part of moves to diversify the economy and promote self-reliance rather than continuous importation of textiles.
The news was received with loud applause by fashion industry experts as well as burgeoning designers who attended the event at which American fashion brand and marketing expert, Mercedes Gonzalez, was invited as Guest Speaker.
“This training is designed to sharpen their skills to make them competitive and produce high quality apparels in the international market. One of the parameters of measuring countries is if they are self-reliant,” said Olagunju.
According to the BoI boss, “Clothing is one of the basic needs of man. We have been importing clothes for the past 40 years before the oil boom. So what we are doing is to ensure increasingly, we wear what we produce; that’s by way of import substitution.”
In terms of exports, Olagunju advocated need for the textile industries to penetrate international markets, stressing the huge diaspora population market interested in the Nigerian fabrics.
Olagunju added that non-Nigerians crave for these fabrics but local entrepreneurs were unable to meet the market demand.
He cited an instance of U.S. firm which promoted $100 billion apparel opportunity in 2015; African countries exported textiles worth $1 billion, Bangladesh exported $5 billion worth of apparels but Nigeria could not make any impact.
To avoid a repeat, he said, “Mercedes is here to sharpen the skills of Nigerian entrepreneurs and help connect them to international markets to sell local fabrics more internationally particularly in the U.S.
“Our entrepreneurs are under-marketing themselves. Most of their products can be exhibited internationally. They are of export quality and very cheap. So once you undergo this kind of training, you are de-risked. We have N1 billion fashion fund which we are willing to increase as demand also increases.”
Gonzalez who is Managing Director, Global Purchasing, urged Nigerian fashion artists to target the international market.
She told the participants to determine if they want to be rich or famous in the textile and fashion industry.
She advised them to change their perception of believing they know it all and seek inputs of other experts.
Describing it as major problem with designers, Gonzalez noted that some spend so much money on fashion shows, promotions, photoshoot including celebrity placements which make less impact.
She said: “In the U.S., consumers are moving away from mass production of cloth lines. People want something that is crafted, well made and limited in production. Some of you don’t value your product, probably because of your environment.
“Understanding the value is what the industry has to appreciate. A lot of designers are big fish in a little pond but they need to start thinking about the bigger picture’’.
“You cannot sit there and do everything yourself. Fashion is a business to make money. We have to think really humble to get the big picture. You can’t dye the fabric yourself, sell it, and make your website and so on. You need to be professional.”
Other dignitaries present at the event include Minister of State for Trade and Investment, Aisha Ibrahim, members of Fashion Designers Association of Nigeria (FADAN), and notable designers among others.