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Last Updated: Wednesday, 1 October, 2003, 08:30 GMT 09:30 UK
US socks made in Africa

By Kwaku Saky-Addo
BBC, Accra

There are socks, socks, and more socks, everywhere at Network Knitwear Fabrics (NKF).

NFK knitting and sewing machines
About 700 people are employed by the sock factory

It is a manufacturing and export company, located at the industrial and port city of Tema, 18km east of Accra, established a year and a half ago.

Its purpose is to take advantage of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (Agoa), a US legislation designed to allow more than a thousand products, including textiles, to be sold in the United States without paying any tariffs.

With the Agoa sock factory, what we bring in is duty free, and we export duty free
Prosper Adabla

The socks originate semi-processed from the US.

"When they arrive, the toes are open; the fabric isn't yet bleached, and the ends aren't knitted.

"In fact, the whole sock isn't even properly shaped," explains Nora Adabla, who along with her brothers Prosper and Sam, and general manager Ghazi Kreyem set up the business.

Prosper Adabla is the executive chairman, and Sam Adabla is the managing director.

NKF employs 700 people who work on an eight-hour shift, seven days a week.

The ironing and shaping of the socks
The company ships to the US about 60,000 dozens of socks per week

They knit, sew, seam, bleach, iron, shape, sort, package according to vendor and, finally, ship 60,000 dozens of socks per week in 40-foot containers, to the United States.

They produce 23 different brands, including Lee and Wrangler, producing $75m worth of socks per year.

The executives would not give details of their profits, but P Adabla says simply: "We made an initial investment of $700,000 from a Bank loan, and let's just say it's profitable and we're pretty much content."

Advantage

Mr Kreyem who has been in the knitwear business for over 30 years says there is an advantage in the export business under Agoa.

The other textile business in which he has been involved was producing for the Ghanaian domestic market.

"We pay duty on the raw materials we bring in, and then after manufacturing, we pay sales tax, income tax, this tax, and that tax," says Mr Kreyem.

"But with the Agoa sock factory, what we bring in is duty free, and we export duty free," says Mr P Adabla.

Socks packaging at NFK factory
The company makes 23 different brands of socks

He speaks of his thrill when he has seen socks from their factory in shops during visits to the US.

"On one occasion, I told the shop assistant that the socks were from my factory in Ghana.

"He looked at me, like, 'Yeah, right!' I told him I was serious - but he thought I was trying to be funny or something. So I left him in his ignorance."

Back on the factory floor at Tema, 32-year-old Angie Ankrah - a supervisor says the 1.7m Cedis ($200) per month she earns is much more than she made at her previous job as a seamstress in a small town.

Paul Kubi, 20, is a labourer, earning about 500,000 Cedis ($60]) a month, which is nearly twice the per capita income in Ghana.

"This is my first job, so I'm better than before," says Mr Kubi.

People come knocking on the gates of NKF daily looking for work.


SEE ALSO:
Africa pressures Bush on trade
09 Jul 03  |  Business
Ghana's gold 'lures Canada'
17 Aug 03  |  Business
Ghana targets Nigeria's salt market
24 Sep 02  |  Business
World Bank warns on poverty
13 Apr 03  |  Americas
Country profile: Ghana
27 May 03  |  Country profiles


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