The United State of America Embassy in Banjul, in partnership with the USAID/ West African Trade Hub (WATH) based in Accra on Monday organise a two-day specialised training workshop for Gambian fashion designers and apparel producers. The training, held at he Sheraton hotel in Brufut, seeks to help enhance the potential of participants to export to the United States.
Apparel and textile products are among the 6,400 product items that The Gambia can export to the United States duty free under the preferential trade terms, provided by the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA).
The training, among others, covered topics such as design, pattern making, cutting, production, finishing and packaging and other skills required in apparel production. It also included production method and equipment, market requirements and export process under AGOA.
Addressing participants at the opening ceremony, Madam Cindy Cregg, Deputy Chief of Mission said the training is in fulfillment of a long-standing desire of the United States Embassy to assist Gambian fashion designers and apparel producers to improve production skills and ensure that their products are competitive in the US market.
Madam Cregg stated that fashion plays an essential part in everyday life in The Gambia, adding that everyday, beautiful fabrics are cut, sewn, dyed, and designed in homes and tailoring shops both large and small.
"This training is part of our ongoing effort to help the Gambia maximize the benefits from the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), the cornerstone of the US trade and investment policy towards sub- Saharan Africa."
"Since 2000, AGOA has broken down barriers to the US markets and eliminate import duties on more than 6000 products. It is a vehicle for private sector-led growth that can improve the lives of millions of women, men, and children across Africa," she said.
The Gambia, she added became AGOA eligible in 2002 and that this eligibility has ever since been renewed annually.
"We need to focus on how to maximize the AGOA opportunity. The Gambia and the United States have invested a great effort in supplying you the tools to begin exporting to the international market," US Deputy Chief of Mission further stated.
For his part, the Minister of Trade, Industry and Employment Baboucarr Jallow stated that his Ministry has worked tirelessly with partners to make sure that the Gambia's export to US market increase substantially. The AGOA initiative, he added, is a unique opportunity for this to happen, given that the US is offering preferential market access to export from eligible sub-Saharan African countries for over 6000 product types.
"The Gambia's private sector cannot do everything at once and thus the apparel and textile sector could represent a good starting point", Minister Jallow said, adding that apparel and fashion are one of the oldest sectors of the economy.
He commended the US Embassy for all the support they have been rendering in the past and continued to offer to Gambian entrepreneurs.
Also speaking at the ceremony were the Director of Accra Based West Africa Trade Hub Dakar Branch and USAID Contractor Makhtar Thiam, who said the US market is huge with a lot of opportunities to explore.