Photograph — Bright Magazine

Uganda has developed a strategy for the cotton, textiles and apparel sector with the aim of increasing fibre cotton production, scaling up domestic value addition and creating employment.

The scheme, which supports the third edition of the National Development Plan (NDPIII), proposes an overhaul of the cotton production value chain. This will be done through investment in apparel for exportation as well as in garment production factories.

“We have a good plan and all we need to do is to make sure that we implement it,” Junior Minister for Trade, Michael Werikhe, said. According to him, the proposed strategy is good because it addresses the lower and upper aspects of the value chain by creating rapid employment creation and sustainable cotton value chain development.

Centered on eight key action points, the strategy seeks to stimulate large scale commercial cotton production while improving textile-related infrastructure and business climate. It also aims to attract Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) into the sector while supporting existing industrial players.

Poor export performance

Cotton is Uganda’s third-largest export crop after coffee and tea. And a 2018 report from the Ministry of Agriculture indicated that the production of cotton in Uganda had increased due to government interventions. However, with only two integrated textiles and garment plants operational, the country does not earn significantly from cotton exports.

The East African reports that Uganda earns an average of $20 million from lint and apparels exports annually. Although this figure falls short of the $47.91 million Uganda reportedly earned last year from cotton exports according to the United Nations Comtrade database on international trade.

As explained by the National Planning Authority and Msingi East Africa, which jointly developed the strategy, Uganda’s poor export performance in the apparel sector is due to inefficiency at the factory and product quality level, as well as non-compliance with international standards.

Improved value addition, employment

Presently, just 10 percent of the 30,000 tonnes of lint produced in Uganda is currently processed into fabric, with production mainly serving the domestic and regional markets. Under the strategy, the proportion of processed lint would be raised to 75 percent of the production or 20,000 tonnes annually based on current output.

“While Uganda is in a position to sell its cotton lint, the recommended action is for it to sell quality value-added yarn and fabric to the region and to become a primary producer of apparel for the domestic, regional and international markets,” the strategy states. 

Moreover, revamping the textile value chain could provide significant employment opportunities as well as boost national income. This is because 41 percent of Uganda’s youth are reportedly out of active employment and 48 percent are self-employed in low paying economic activities.

The plan makes provision for the establishment of five new vertically integrated textile mills which would add value to Uganda’s cotton output. If the strategy is properly implemented, planners say the textile sector could generate 50,000 new jobs and $650 million in additional export revenues annually over the next eight years.

“We face critical choices and there is a need to prioritize resources,” Msingi East Africa’s Executive Director, Aggie Konde said. “If we choose the right industries, we can convert our young labor force into an asset.”

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