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Togo : The great return of the Nana Benz ?

Struck by arson attacks that gutted the markets of Lomé and Kara in january 2013, the famous importers of printed fabric, the Nana Benz, examine new ways of diversification for their commercial activities.

On their own, the Nana Benz have made of the markets of Lomé (Togo’s capital city) and of Kara (north) essential addresses in West and Central Africa, in terms of printed fabric sales, most of them imported from Netherlands. Between 1970 and 2000, activities of these Togolese women were flourishing. From 2008 to 2012 (given the figures of the Finance minister), this trade was worth 40% of the added value of the tertiary sector and 8.3% of Togo’s GDP. 25% of these services have been evaluated in Togolese markets in which women, and especially the Nana Benz, have their share. Though most of them work in the informal market.

[blockquote author=””]” The modern Nana Benz should associate to buy out a textile factory, relocate it in Togo and produce locally instead of continuing to order fabric from Netherlands “[/blockquote]

But for two decades this reputation is slightly evaporating. ” This is because of unfair foreign competition, Asiatic in particular “, report unanimously the Nana Benz. Thus the necessity to give a new life to their job. The arson attacks mentioned above only accelerated the process.

Founding member of the AFCET (Togo’s women business association) and Nana Benz herself for several decades, Dédé Evelyne Trenou goes beyond the necessary implication of the state : ” It is getting urgent that we consolidate the business environment in Togo. Though liberalized it is not at all regulated ! The government pledges are not enacted in that field. Indians, Lebanese, Sahelian have almost taken the place of Nana Benz as big importers. State could prevent big foreign importers to retail. ” This planned changes (waited or wished) creates a windfall for those retailers “, underlines Charles Birregah, certified public accountant, because he considers this new framework ” will necessarily drive them to diversify their classical activities “.

” We need a regional vision of textile commercialization. Between 1960 and 2014, more than a half of textile factories in the WAEMU (West African Economic and Monetary Union) closed because they aimed a local market “, warns and proposes L. Dravi. ” Even if we succeed in pulling protection guarantees from the State to revive loincloth, it is time to put into practice a new commercial marketing focused international expansion. Nowadays, we can bring the product to the potential customer and not only table on the inverse cycle as we do now “, thinks Ms Trenou.

[blockquote author=””]Legacy and prestige of Nana Benz should not vanish away. I dream of circulating through the main streets of Togolese capital where would be settled a multitude of boutiques praising original creations made on “Togolese loincloth” basis.[/blockquote]

With a penetration rate of only 1.5% in the country, insurance companies could recruit a new type of clients if this redesign Togo’s textile get along with a progressive formalization of this indispensable actress of Togolese tertiary sector. These intentions and projects sastisfy Ms Nougblega, president of the ACT (Togo’s retailers association). But she still feels a great apprehension : ” The usual useless rivalries and misunderstandings between retailers could reverse the set up of this planned revival of the industry.”

” One thing is certain, there is ground to gain. Legacy and prestige of Nana Benz should not vanish away. I dream of circulating through the main streets of Togolese capital where would be settled a multitude of boutiques praising original creations made on “Togolese loincloth” basis, wishes Fall Touré, Togolese stylist and fashion creator. ” Nana Benz obviously have a know-how that we just need to update. We can build upon her “, says Mocktar Komi Sow, a former Togolese employer association coordinator.

 

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Par Edem Gadegbeku

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