Ghana: Entrepreneur builds clothing business one stitch at a time

Linda Ampah, founder of KAD Manufacturing

Partner Content: Stanford Seed

Meet Linda Ampah, founder of KAD Manufacturing and a fashion brand called Cadling Fashions based in Ghana. Ampah’s entrepreneurial journey has had all the typical hurdles plus the extra challenges of being a female business owner in Africa. That’s why providing job opportunities for women is central to her mission.

Ampah has always loved the sound of sewing machines. Now she gets to hear them all the time in her factories, where she manufactures school uniforms and makes garments for US brands like Anthropologie and Brooklyn Industries.

“In Ghana, in the marketplaces there are women and girls who sleep on the streets. We went out asking them whether they’ll be interested to come and train. And the response we got was just amazing. We invited them over and then we started training them. Now the challenge, though, was that because they didn’t have a place to stay, they get raped. We decided we’ll add housing to it. And usually, after a year, they are able to rent their own place; then they move from the hostel.”

Ampah is one of the African entrepreneurs that joined the Seed Transformation Program, a year-long programme for founders offered by the Stanford Graduate School of Business.

Watch Ampah’s story to learn how employing women in need can have a ripple effect on an entire community:

Africa has the potential to export $6.18 billion of cotton garments to both international and intra-African markets by 2026, according to a report by the International Trade Centre, which identified cotton apparel as a promising value chain.

The continent is an important producer and exporter of raw cotton and is involved in the final assembly of certain textiles. However, the region has relatively few spinning mills and limited yarn and fabric production, leading to a lack of vertical value chain integration. Little refinement of cotton happens in Africa. The continent exports 90% of its raw cotton to Asia and is a net importer of cotton fabrics and yarn. African cotton apparel manufacturers import a mere 7% of cotton yarn and 6% of cotton fabric from elsewhere on the continent.

Export potential in cotton garments could increase significantly if intermediate steps in the value chain – such as processing of cotton into yarn and fabric – were carried out on the continent. This presents strategic investment opportunities with a view of diversifying production locations and near-shoring close to major markets, e.g. the EU, to reduce the risk of supply-chain disruptions.

The report states there is significant intra-regional export potential to untap. African clothing producers tend to focus on their domestic markets or manufacture apparel for brands outside the continent. Many fail to realise opportunities for intra-regional trade due to limited awareness of, and participation in, market linkage activities such as trade fairs. There is also little awareness of intra-African trade accords, such as the African Continental Free Trade Area, and their possible advantages.