Insights from UNIWAX into doing business in Cote d'Ivoire
UNIWAX was created in 1968, it is part of the Gama Holding Groups as are for example Vlisco and GTP.
UNIWAX’s competition rests of course with the other brands of the GAMA holding groups who target however slightly different market segments. In the last few years the company has felt first hand competition from Chinese imports to Cote d’Ivoire. From all the different Gama holding brands in West Africa, UNIWAX was quickly the brand the most copied by the Chinese. Why? Because it corresponded more to the target-market within the reach of cheaper forgery than it was for example the VLISCO brand, one which targets higher-end consumers. These consumers with greater purchasing power are more copy-adverse. In the case of UNIWAX’s market segment, price competition is more important. When Chinese copies could be purchased by a third or a fourth of the price UNIWAX started running into trouble, even if the quality of these pieces was not so good. The company has even run a campaign against counterfeit products. In this campaign it tried to show consumers the differences between our real wax prints and counterfeit copies.
At the same time African consumers have now started to take notice of this and are becoming more demanding as they realize they can actually save money by buying a product with more quality that lasts for longer. In addition, the trend is for international regulation when it comes to quality standards in exported textiles to be strengthened. Increasingly Chinese businesses exporting counterfeit products will not be able to do whatever they want. Stronger regulation will only favor a company like UNIWAX.
At the end of the 1990s, Cote d’Ivoire went through a crisis, with the fall in cocoa prices, UNIWAX endured through all these stuff conditions, including the crisis in 2002 and the big crisis in 2004. UNIWAX registered positive growth even throughout these tough challenges. The strategy of the company passes through offering the consumer a product of quality loaded with maximum creativity. UNIWAX has the first centre for wax prints design in Western Africa, it creates 2000 designs per year. The company also sees as central to always seek the best price-quality ratio, adapting to the lower purchasing power in Africa. Distribution is also a focus now, Cote d’Ivoire is set to be used as a distribution platform for the region.
Regarding the Economic Partnership Agreement with the European Union, this agreement will not be particularly beneficial to UNIWAX. In fact, there is the risk that some Chinese companies or other unethical exporters and businessmen take advantage of the deal to export zero-tariff to Europe by stopping by Cote d’Ivoire and “trade launder” their goods. This already happens as well the other way around. There are products that arrive to Cote d’Ivoire from China via Germany, with German labels.
From 2006 to 2008 UNIWAX has had a positive outlook with important investments being made. The company’s headquarters is large, well-organized one can tell from visiting it that it looks after its workers; it even has a health center on the factory site exclusive for them.