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Africa Poised To Become Major Cotton Producer

While South Asia has become the dominant region for the production of cotton, Eastern Africa is throwing its hat in the ring, with plans to make the industry a centerpiece of its economic revival.

Kenya and Tanzania are the two countries best positioned to grow their cotton sector. Kenya’s government has been particularly aggressive over the last three years, attempting to accelerate the expansion of cotton production with a basket of initiatives, policy reforms and investments that includes the elimination of any value added tax on all locally produced cotton.

Anthony Mureithi, CEO of the Cotton Development Authority of Kenya (CODA), said, “The cotton sector of Kenya is estimated to have a potential to benefit ten million people due to the many forward and backward linkages favorable for jobs creation. Under the Kenyan’s government policy in Vision 2030 for addressing poverty, cotton production has been identified as a key sector for economic development of the drier areas in the country.”

Cotton has always been a major crop for Tanzania as well, though the government has failed to properly capitalize on its full potential. However, following the lead of Kenya’s multiple initiatives, Tanzania is also focusing on ways the government can provide further stimulus to the industry. Mwangulumba Emmanuel, cotton development and promotion officer at the Tanzania Cotton Board, weighed in, “As part of increasing cotton production in the country, Tanzania Cotton Board is promoting contract farming in collaboration with Tanzania Gatsby Trust, the financiers of the Cotton and Textile Development Program.”

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According to Emmanuel, the emphasis on contract farming is the most promising avenue to future success: “Some of the factors for adopting contract farming are improved seeds, timely inputs provision to farmers and improved agricultural extension services; improved cotton quality by reducing contaminations; creating a more reliable arrangements for cotton marketing at cotton growers level as well as organize the fragmented and scattered small scale farmers into creditworthy groups and connect these groups to financial institutions.”

As a whole, Africa is on track to grow 5 percent before the conclusion of 2013, according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Africa’s exports, according to statistics issued by the World Bank, has spiked by more than 200 percent over the last ten years. Still, the continent has suffered from the lack of a sophisticated industrial base and the productive capacity necessary to remain competitive. The current demand for fabric, especially in the sub-Saharan market, far exceeds its present production capacity and supply.

The Africa Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), a US initiative, has called for further regional investment in weaving, spinning and dyeing. The AGOA’s proposed strategies have produced particularly impressive results in Ethiopia.