Interview: Actis acquires African fabric manufacturer

Emerging markets focused private equity firm, Actis, recently bought 100% of Vlisco Group, the market leader in designer wax fashion fabrics for US$151 million. The company designs, manufactures and distributes 51 million yards of branded fabric a year for consumption primarily in west and central Africa. How we made it in Africa asked Murray Grant, a partner at Actis, about the reasons behind the acquisition

A model wearing a dress made with Vlisco's fabrics

A model wearing a dress made with Vlisco's fabrics

Give us a brief overview of the Vlisco Group

Vlisco Group has four brands in its portfolio. Luxury international apparel brand Vlisco (its fabrics are often called ‘Real Dutch Wax’ or ‘Hollandais’) appeals to sophisticated women of style both in Africa and abroad. Uniwax (Ivory Coast) and GTP (Ghana) are nationally oriented brands, although Uniwax also exports to a number of neighbouring countries. The Woodin brand targets younger consumers across West Africa with fabrics and targeted ready-to-wear collections demonstrating contemporary value.

What was the motivation behind Actis’ acquisition of Vlisco?

Vlisco is a strong and long-standing business, with a great portfolio of brands. As such, they are solidly part of the consumer growth story in emerging markets; in this instance, west and central Africa. Actis can add value beyond capital to Vlisco’s pan-African growth strategy with our on-the-ground presence and deep consumer sector expertise.

Please elaborate on Vlisco’s growth potential

The economies that the Vlisco Group sells to are typically growing at more than 5%. The middle class segment driven by urbanisation and demographics is growing faster than this. This is an attractive background for growing a consumer brands business. We are also open to expanding beyond the Vlisco Group’s current markets.

What are the major challenges currently facing Vlisco’s business?

Improving the customer buying experience – giving the customer what they want and when they want it.

Is it a concern that as Africa becomes more developed and integrated with the rest of the world that people will start wearing western-style clothing?

No, the attractiveness of the Vlisco Group brands is how their unique African designs are constantly incorporated into the evolving style of the consumers.