Nora Bannerman named in Top 20 Global Female Business Leaders

BY: Emmanuel Quaye
Ms Bannerman making some remarks at the launching of the  “Trailblazers Book” by the IFC
Ms Bannerman making some remarks at the launching of the “Trailblazers Book” by the IFC

Some 40 years ago, Fashion Designer Nora Bannerman decided to turn her God given talent and lifelong passion, fashion design, into a thriving enterprise.

Starting with her mother’s domestic sewing machine, she is now the owner of over 300-machine factory, Sleek Garments Export Limited, which she runs with her daughter, Natasha.

Over the years she has designed and styled for First Ladies of Africa, including Mrs Nana Konadu Agyeman-Rawlings of Ghana, Mrs Murtala Mohammed of Nigeria, the late Mrs Winnie Mandela of South Africa and Mrs Grace Mugabe of Zimbabwe.

With sponsorship from the EU office in Ghana and Europe, she showcased the Nora Bannerman Collection on Fashion Runways and Trade Shows in Paris, Dusseldorf and went on to participate in fashion shows in cities in Europe and in the USA.

In 1979, Ms Bannerman established a Skills Development Training Institution, Sleek Fashion Institute, a non-governmental organisation (NGO), giving skills to the youth, especially young women.

This organisation is now known as the “Nora Bannerman Foundation” that seeks to develop the skills of disadvantaged young women doing menial jobs such as porters/kayayei for daily sustenance.

Her passion is to direct and promote every activity that can empower the young ladies for employment to help grow Ghana’s Textile and Apparel Industry as well as build their capacity to establish dignified sustainable business ventures for a better future.

At the Sleek Garments Export Limited factory 90 per cent of its employees are young women.

Students from our Universities, Polytechnics, Vocational schools, and homes for disadvantaged young women receive training and internship.

The production capacity of her factory is between 4,000 and 10,000per day depending on the products which include storage bags.

Under Ms Bannerman leadership, Sleek Garments Export Limited has worked in partnership with Institutions such as the World Bank to develop the skills of hundreds of youth for employment in the Garments Industry in Ghana.

Under the President’s Special Initiative (PSI) programme that enables Ghana to take advantage of AGOA, Nora’s was the first company to be invited to participate in this initiative because the track record of her company, Sleek Fashion Limited, in exporting 10,000 of her designs, in Made-in-Ghana batik fabric to the US as early as 1994, for sale in Pier 1 Imports.

Ms Bannerman Nora will confess that her’s has been four decades of overcoming challenges in every creative way possible, while constantly exploring and taking advantage of business opportunities on both domestic and global markets and championing many an initiative to change the lives of the youth and create indigenous businesses; she says “ it would take a book, to tell my story”.

The road to success has not and is not easy.

Some challenges are sometimes from unexpected quarters “where some industry players who stand to benefit from one’s effort have been the very ones to place stumbling blocks on one’s path.

But it has been worth it, as I have gathered a wealth of knowledge and experience along the way and developed spiritually plus the receiving of numerous honorary recognitions and honour, again from unexpected quarters.

And this is why I, without apology, give God the glory.

By helping to set up small local suppliers using our quality assurance methods, her company, Sleek Garments Export Limited, is able to subcontract the orders that may be too expensive to produce in our factories on account of smallness of size, while maintaining our quality standards.

On July 30, 2019 Miss Bannerman was one of four women from Sub-Saharan Africa to be named among the top twenty Global Female

Business Leaders by the World Bank’s International Finance Corporation (IFC), and Ms Bannerman, with her fellow honourees, is featured in the “Trailblazers Book” by the IFC, as one of the Top 20 Global Female Trailblazers.

What occupies her the most these days? “ I am seeking partnerships for programmes to support the growth of Ghana’s apparel industry”.

Over the past years I have continued to attend major international Textile and Apparel Trade Shows to test the marketability of apparel samples from the Sleek Garments Factory and from other designers and manufacturers whose work I seek to promote alongside mine and have met buyers with the keen interest of placing orders in Ghana for uniforms and all manner of clothing.

We, as a country, just need to give targeted support to the number of clothing factories that have already invested heavily in the Apparel Industry.

Areas of need are infrastructure, equipment and skilled workers and I believe we will be very successful on global markets.

“Ghana’s Apparel Industry can boost foreign exchange earnings and will definitely create thousands of jobs as in the 70s when it employed 25,000 people.”

Opportunities exist on our domestic market for supplying our government agencies, schools, hospitals, security services etc with uniforms.

There must be equitable distribution of orders for production of these uniforms to get all well established factories working at full capacity.

All imports of uniforms need to be halted to encourage the development of Ghana’s Textile Industry for generation of jobs and wealth for our people.

Positions and Achievements

She is currently a member of the Professional & Humanitarian Association, a member of the Governing Board of Ghana Investment Promotion Centre (GIPC), Executive Member and Chairperson of the Association of Ghana Industries(AGI) and a member of the Technical Committee of the AGI Industry and Quality Awards Technical Committee.

Ms Bannerman was past President of the Ghana Apparel Manufacturers Association ,chairperson of the Garments and Textile Sector ,AGI (2012-2014) and past Vice- President of the SPINNET Cluster, during her term she worked with a garment consultant to develop a business plan for the group which led to UNIDO sponsoring a Garments Manufacturing Training Facility at the Accra Technical Training College/Centre (ATTC).

In 2007, her company was named one of AGOA’s success stories. Proudly she was a member of the National AGOA Committee that worked on earning Ghana the AGOA Visa to export over 6,000 products duty and Quota free.

She is a member of the Advisory Board for the Africa Centre for Economic Transformation (ACET) and Director of Kinder Paradise, an establishment for needy and disadvantaged children in Prampram. She was the Director of the Rotary Club of Accra-North( 2013-2014) and a member of the Advisory Board of the AGI .

Ms Bannerman is an excellent communicator with great experience in the manufacturing sector on both domestic and international markets since the 1980s, enabling her to attract the needed interest from both local and international investors and development partners like the World Bank

Awards and recognitions

Ms Bannerman has consistently been recognised for her role as the last word in the dressing up of contestants for beauty pageants and remains an inspiration to Ghanaian designers in the fashion industry.

In 2016, she was presented with the Life Time Achievement Award for her work as a designer, an entrepreneur and role model and mentor to the youth and Ghanaian designers.

She has featured on many major radio and television networks in Ghana, Europe and the United States of America .

Educational Background

She is a product of Accra Technical University ,where she studied Business Management, Accounting, General Principles of the English Law and the Illinois State University where she studied Modern Textile Management and Business Skills.