Growth Of Textile Printing In Africa

1998

This feature is extracted from Practical Sign & Digital Graphics magazine: 

Printers in Africa are increasingly seeing textile printing as a new revenue stream. The advancements in ink and machine technology and wider availability of reliable printers has made this area a very attractive business opportunity.

Textile manufacturing in Africa has been boosted by the African Growth and Opportunity Act, a trade agreement between the US and sub-Saharan African countries, whereby these countries can export duty-free goods to the US, such as textiles and apparel. Lesotho, Mauritius, Kenya, Swaziland, Madagascar and Ethiopia are the leading Sub-Saharan African exporters of apparel (source: www.agoa.info).

Below, industry experts give their opinions on the textile market in Africa:

MIKE HORSTEN, GENERAL MANAGER MARKETING EMEA, MIMAKI EUROPE

HAVE YOU SEEN GROWTH IN TEXTILE PRINTING IN AFRICA?

Mimaki has seen an increase in the demand for soft signage in the African continent, which is following the same trend as Europe. South Africa has a very strong textile clothing manufacturing industry and digital printing will serve to strengthen it. Due to low labour costs, European production is being moved to the North African countries first but soon West Africa will be involved too.

WHICH SECTORS HAVE HAD THE THE MOST GROWTH?

Generally, fashion has had the biggest growth. Again, low labour costs are reinforcing this trend.

WHAT ARE THE CHALLENGES?

Manufacturers need to work on a smaller dot for accuracy, but on the other hand, you need bigger dots for quality. You also need more heads that can produce multiple smaller drops to achieve the density that is needed for fabric. Mimaki is working towards replacing rotary screens for one main reason: personalisation. Digital is the way to personalisation. Also, shorter runs make digital a viable way to work.

ADVICE FOR SOMEONE WHO WANTS TO GET INTO TEXTILE PRINTING

You need to invest in great inks and great equipment, most manufacturers will offer both. This is important as the system depends on the correct combinations and they will work together. With different vendors, you don’t know if it will work correctly. You also need to know how to or where to finish the products, this is imperative.

WHY DO YOU THINK TEXTILE IS GROWING SO MUCH IN AFRICA?

Africa emulates what happens in Europe. Africa needs to take advantage of the opportunity that textile offers to become part of the game again. The continent has much to offer but it lacks faith in its potential.

www.gsw.co.za

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VERNON MELLORS, BUSINESS ACCOUNT MANAGER, EPSON SA

HAVE YOU SEEN GROWTH IN TEXTILE PRINTING IN AFRICA?

There is huge growth, this is the trend internationally.

WHICH SECTORS HAVE HAD THE MOST GROWTH?

From a direct to garment point of view, I get daily enquiries for solutions. Cotton-based fabrics help with this growth as it is more eco-friendly than polyesters used in the transfer process.

WHAT ARE THE CHALLENGES?

The cost of direct to garment equipment is high. The cost per print is also higher than the transfer process. Lastly, white ink is challenging to work with, and expensive.

ADVICE FOR SOMEONE WHO WANTS TO GET INTO TEXTILE PRINTING

Define your market. People we talk to want to do a bit of everything, but rather focus on one market segment, for example the tourist industry. Our client, The Lion Park, for example, has bought two labs, a mini lab and a mug transfer press. They print about 750 A4s on a Sunday.

WHY DO YOU THINK TEXTILE IS GROWING SO MUCH IN AFRICA?

It is driven by small entrepreneurs. The dye sublimation transfer process is a lot cheaper and a small business can get started for under R15K doing things like T-shirts, mugs, plates, etc.

www.epson.co.za

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PATRICK NOLAN, CAPE TOWN BRANCH MANAGER, NATIONAL SCREEN & DIGITAL SUPPLIES

HAVE YOU SEEN GROWTH IN TEXTILE PRINTING IN AFRICA?

The local market in South Africa is still reasonably buoyant, solid and stable.

WHICH SECTORS HAVE HAD THE MOST GROWTH?

Direct to garment from a printing process point of view, has grown considerably over the past five years and is more accepted.

WHAT ARE THE CHALLENGES?

There is a complete lack of training courses for screen printers. For digital textile printing, the main challenge for direct to garment printing is finding a solution that is the right combination between speed and affordability. At this stage, the technology is still pricey and the process is still slow. There is yet to be an affordable machine that competes with screen printing on a
production level.

ADVICE FOR SOMEONE WHO WANTS TO GET INTO TEXTILE PRINTING

Do your homework and research very carefully. Define what your market is going to be and decide where you want to position yourself in the market. All the processes have their place, be it screen printing or digital printing. So, be sure to select the right fi t with the target market and application to be efficient and competitive.

WHY DO YOU THINK TEXTILE IS GROWING SO MUCH IN AFRICA?

There is still a great deal of products being imported from outside of Africa. However, the potential to produce and print locally and in the rest of Africa remains. The strengthening US dollar is a negative for importers, so that will hopefully also encourage more production in Africa. The sophistication levels of printers in Africa is increasing, which also makes for a more competitive market place from a quality and productivity perspective.

www.nsds.co.za

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