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Kenyan Gov’t Pledges to Restore Textile Industry

As Africa’s profile as a sourcing destination rises, Kenya is advertising its virtues as a future player in the global textile industry.

Adan Mohammed, Industrialization Cabinet Secretary for Kenya, said that the government is committed to restoring Kenya’s limping textile industry, once thought a source of great promise in the 1980s. To that end, significant funds will be directed to the renovation of old textile factories and the construction of new ones.

The Kenyan government, Mohammed continued, also plans to establish campaigns to educate farmers about the sustainable production of their product, particularly cotton, and to address the serious problem of underperforming crop yields.

While South Asia has become the dominant region for the production of cotton, Eastern Africa is also 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.”

Recently, the Sourcing Journal spoke to Roger Mayerson, Director of Business Solutions for New Generation Computing (NGC), about Kenya’s economic potential. “I’ve done a lot of business in Kenya. Africa has great opportunity. The issue turns on the renewal of the AGOA, which is set to expire soon. Without the long-term expectation of duty free access, it’s hard to attract major investment capital.”

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In the 1980s, Kenya’s textile industry suddenly imploded, partly due to the massive importation of second-hand clothing, which killed the domestic market for apparel. As an unintended but disastrous consequence, cotton production plummeted as well, strangling still fragile manufacturing and agricultural sectors.

As a whole, Africa grew about 5 percent in 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 U.S. initiative, has called for further regional investment in weaving, spinning and dyeing. The AGOA’s proposed strategies have produced particularly impressive results in Ethiopia.