NAIROBI, Kenya, Apr 28 – In a move designed to contribute to the revival of the cotton industry, Prime Minister Raila Odinga has directed government ministries and institutions to buy textile for staff uniforms from local industries.
While pointing to the thousands of jobs that used to be generated by the local textile industries before the collapse of the sector, Mr Odinga expressed the government’s commitment to ensure that the industry thrives again.
“We need to revive this industry which in the past offered jobs to thousands of Kenyans in the manufacturing of textile and in cotton growing in the country,” said the Premier who further asked Permanent Secretaries to ensure that this directive was complied with.
Mr Odinga spoke when he received a report of the task force on the implementation of the Kenya textile industry position paper of 2006 from members of the Kenya Association of Manufacturers (KAM) who said that the biggest challenge facing the textile industry in the country was posed by unaccustomed new clothes that had flooded the market.
They appealed to the government to ease some of the regulations that compel the Export Processing Zones (EPZ) to manufacture textile exclusively for export, so that they could also manufacture textile for the local market at competitive rates.
This, they argued, would enable most Kenyans to afford new clothes instead of always buying the second hand clothes that have swamped the local market.
KAM further decried the high cost of production pointing out that high energy costs in the country were driving investors to neighbouring countries where they charge cheaper rates.
Earlier in the day, the first pan African cotton body African Cotton and Textile Industries Federation (ACTIF), which is made up of 23 cotton and textile trade associations from 18 countries, pledged to promote the cotton industry which has the potential to become a major revenue earner for the continent.
The Federation’s Chairman Jaswinder Bedi said they were planning a number of initiatives which will help reverse the trend which sees Africa produce 12 percent of the world’s cotton but contributes less than one percent of the global sales.
“We are doing about $1.7 billion in exports; it is insignificant in the grand scheme of things and what we are trying to do increase the size of that pie so that we can have a bigger slice which would have a direct impact on job creation,” he said.
Mr Bedi regretted that 95 percent of Africa’s production is sold to other countries for processing thus the need for the development of a value chain that ensures that fabric, design and fashion stem directly from the continent.
Although it has tried to play its part to promote market access in many parts of the world including the USA through the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), the chairman called for the implementation of other measures such as enactment of favourable policies, installation of modern technology to help address the many challenges faced by the textile industry.
The Federation has been advocating for the amendment of the Act which expires in 2015 to make it a permanent trade program that would go a long way in promoting the industry and will be presenting a proposal in Washington in August towards this effect.
“Some suggest that AGOA would do more to promote the cotton and textile industry if it were a permanent agreement since investors might be more willing to adopt a longer term approach to technology investment,” he observed.
If it is not renewed, then many people fear that AGOA eligible countries will suffer as buyers are likely to source elsewhere for apparel.