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Kenya Rebuilding Flagging Textile Industry

The Kenyan government plans to invest 200 million shillings ($1.6 million) to revamp and reopen closed garment factories in the East African nation.

State Department for Industrialization principal secretary Juma Mukhwana said that the textile sector is critical to the administration’s goal to elevate Kenya’s economic potential. The country currently exports 1,900 tons of yarn annually worth 1.1 billion shillings ($8.8 million). The Kenyan government also plans to open ginneries in cotton-growing counties to increase acreage of cotton-producing land, according the NTV Kenya news station.

Mukhwana spoke to these plans during a weekend visit to Rivatex East Africa Limited, a textile factory in the town of Eldoret, according to Kenya’s Capital News. Kenya’s new administration wants to revitalize local industry to further its “Buy Kenya, Build Kenya” initiative for manufacturing job creation, he said.

“Rivatex had previously collapsed and it has undergone a significant makeover,” he told press. “I want to applaud the factory’s management for bringing it back to life—it has now created employment to more than 1,000 people and am confident that the new Rivatex will boost this administration’s efforts to create more jobs for the youth in the future.”

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The principal secretary said the investment is part of a campaign to revive companies with the potential to employ thousands, such as integrated textile manufacturer Ken Knit Raymond, also located in Eldoret. The Kenyan government’s Department for Industrialization aims to expand the industry and grow employment from 50,000 to 500,000 over the next five years.

Mukhwana said that under the AGOA trade agreement, the country has already exported 50 billion shillings-worth of textiles ($403 million) to the U.S., but he believes restoring Kenya’s cotton farming industry to its past achievements could increase exports.

“When the factories stopped running, farmers stop planting,” he said. “As a government we have allocated 50 million for cotton purchases, and this year we have set aside 200 million for the same.”

The department aims to set up cotton purchasing centers for farmers to sell their product, noting that currently, 80 percent of Kenya’s cotton supply is imported.