Supporting African self-sufficiency: the cotton and textile trade

By: IN

posted on: June 29th, 2018

Cocoa, coffee and cotton are some of sub-saharan Africa’s biggest exported goods. African countries profit from exporting products to countries such as the US and UK. It is rare that African countries get good economic deals and they are often exploited. Western countries rely on African ones, just as much as African countries rely on the West, so it is only fair that African countries learn to become self-sufficient.


Self-sufficiency means that a country focuses on developing its own resources, instead of getting the same resources from another country. By relying on their own resources, a country reduces its dependence on other countries and the possibility of economic exploitation. One way in which one can combat this exploitation is through supporting local or regional businesses such as cotton farming and clothes-making.


African countries have both the raw materials and the weather conditions which will enable them to become more self-sufficient. However, in countries such as Kenya, up to 93% of the fabrics used in clothes-making are brought in from other countries. This means that these countries are missing out on developing their own industries and increasing employment. The African Cotton and Textile industry ranges from cotton farming to spinning to garmenting. The development of these different production sectors is very much possible because of the great amount of raw textile materials available in Africa. Local industries rely on raw materials that can be sourced in-land. In the case of the textile industry (one of the biggest manufacturing sectors), this includes cotton, wool and raffia. These materials are both easily grown in a sub-saharan climate and sustainable.


Sustainability, in relation to cotton, means encouraging growth in a way that does not harm the environment. This involves using less water and less chemicals such as pesticides and fertilisers. If less pesticides and fertilizers are used, then this contributes to a healthier soil, which enables more cotton to grow. This also means that profit for the cotton farmer increases because he does not have to pay for a lot of pesticides.


One should also keep in mind that it is possible for African countries to profit from their own resources and still export to other countries. In Uganda, cotton and textile is the third largest export industry. Most of their cotton lint is exported to Asia and consequently, their textile industry only uses up to 5% of the country’s cotton lint supply. As a result, Uganda can afford to increase its use of cotton lint because they will not have to get different textile materials from another country. If a country focuses more on developing the industries it does have, then this increases the country’s economic stability. ‘Economic stability’ means that there are more jobs available in the countries and less reliance on imports, which helps businesses in the country run more smoothly.

Supporting African industries of all types is necessary to strengthen their position in the global market. A stronger national economy means that its population are stronger.


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