Feature: Chinese Garment Firm Helps Promote Made In Rwanda

- May 14, 2018 -

On a Friday morning, a 1,500-square-meter workshop in Rwanda's Kigali Special Economic Zone was busy churning out different styles of clothes.

About 400 Rwandan workers of C&H Garments Ltd were cutting fabric, operating sewing machines or checking finished products, some of whom wearing uniforms with a mark that reads "Made in Rwanda."

Uniforms of the Rwandan military, police, immigration department and schools are made in this Chinese-owned factory, located in Rwanda's capital Kigali. Besides the uniforms, it also produces safety warning clothes and African style fashion clothes.

As the Rwandan government seeks to encourage domestic production of certain goods currently imported and promote export diversification through a "Made in Rwanda" campaign, C&H has contributed to Rwanda's local production.

As orders increase, the workshop established in 2015 cannot meet demands so that C&H set up a new workshop in 2017 close to the first one, said Anna An, factory manager.

Currently, C&H has 1,200 workers in Rwanda, all of whom are Rwandan, said An.

The company's first workshop has five production lines and the new workshop is planning to increase to 16, said An, adding that one production line presently has capacity of producing over 1,000 pieces of clothes per day.

According to her, 20 percent of clothes made by the factory are sold in Rwanda while 80 percent are sold to Europe and the United States.

In the factory, Rwandan workers were working independently. "All the workers of C&H knew nothing about garment making, but now they can make clothes by themselves after being trained by the factory," said An.

At the beginning of its establishment in Rwanda, C&H bought over 10 containers of cloth to train Rwandan workers who didn't have any knowledge on garment making, An explained.

Our workers now are able to make all styles of clothes except the formal suit, one of the most difficult styles to be made, she said. Group leaders of the workers have the ability to design production processes, plan production procedure and arrange manpower, she added.

Besides training workers, the company also has been teaching 36 Rwandans to learn embroidery for two years, she said.

In January, a market manager of the factory resigned and established his own garment factory. C&H introduced its technicians to work in his factory.

"Our purpose of coming here is to train locals and help them. Since he wants do his own business, we can give him some support," she said.

"When I came here, I don't know anything about this (garment making), that's why I decide to work hard. Madam Anna is a good teacher and told me everything. she also motivates me," said Ericson Ndagijimana, human resources manager of C&H.

"Now I know everything about this factory," said Ndagijimana, who joined C&H in 2015 after graduating from a technical school.

Before becoming a member of the top management of the factory, he took roles of helper, recorder and production controller successively.

"This factory is very important to Rwanda... no one knew this (kind of garment making) before. This is a modern way in Rwanda, which is new," he said. 

With an aim of helping Rwanda promote "Made in Rwanda", "we have so many styles that we are producing for Rwandans...weteach Rwandans to be confident that they can make and produce garments," he said.

Production manager Valens Muvara also didn't know garment making before joining in the company in 2015. He was jobless, but now "controls production per day, check everywhere in the factory, and arrange jobs for day."

"We have confidence that C&H will become 'Made in Rwanda' as our country needs," he said.

However, C&H is currently experiencing some difficulties, but An believes that the company can overcome them.

Potential withdrawal of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) benefits from Rwanda has affected C&H's business, said An. "Many U.S. companies has stopped giving us orders," she said.

U.S. President Donald Trump in March said he will suspend the application of duty-free treatment to all the AGOA-eligible goods in the apparel sector for Rwanda in 60 days.

This follows a decision by East African countries to raise tariffs on second-hand clothing imports, in order to promote local manufacturing capacity in garment and other industries.

The relatively high transportation cost in a landlocked country has influence on the business, she added.

"We are still providing our workers with free lunch... We have now trying to get orders from Rwanda and Europe, we believe that we can overcome the difficulties by attracting more orders from Rwanda and other areas," An said.


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