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750 Workers Laid Off at Ugandan Textile Manufacturer

Declining demand due to increasing imports from China has caused Southern Range Nyanza, a Ugandan textile company making fashion and uniform fabrics, to lay off 750 workers at its factory in Njeru.

The company said the job cuts were due to the government’s decision to procure uniforms for the armed forces and health workers from foreign contractors and that the remaining 400 employees on the payroll could be out of work by July. General manager Vinay Kumar told local media that the factory had stopped hiring casual laborers six months ago.

Now Southern Range is pushing for the implementation of a national textile policy that would require all clothing and textile products purchased by government agencies to be made in Uganda.

“Government now imports armed forces’ uniforms from China yet local textile industries like Southern Range can also make the same uniforms. So if government doesn’t encourage buying Ugandan products, where shall we work?” Gertrude Kawuma, a sewing machine operator, told New Vision.

The government formulated a five-year national textile policy in 2009 but it was never implemented. The Public Procurement Disposal of Public Assets Authority was amended in March 2014 to promote local and small business, while a “Buy Uganda, Build Uganda” policy was developed and launched in December by the Ministry of Trade in an effort to encourage locals to buy domestically-made products.

But Uganda’s once thriving textile industry continues to collapse under the weight of increased competition from Asia and the Middle East and several companies, including Mulco Textiles and Phenix Logistics, have suffered as a result.