A new dawn is unfolding in East Africa as ministers approve a final draft that calls on states to procure cotton and apparel from textiles and fabric industries within the region.
The move has been taken by the East African Community (EAC) Council of Ministers in an effort to promote the textile and apparel sector in the bloc.
It is also a response to directives by the 19 Summit of EAC Heads of State held last year concerning the promotion of cotton, textile and apparel in the region, with a view of making the region more competitive and creating jobs.
The 39th Meeting of the EAC Council of Ministers approved the Final Draft Cotton, Textiles and Apparels (CTA) Strategy and its Implementation Roadmap with a vision 'An Integrated and Globally Competitive Cotton, Textiles and Apparels Industry'.
EAC six partner states have been importing cotton, one of the world's most important commodities and the most valuable non-food agricultural crop that is highly produced in the Nile Valley, with Egypt leading in the continent as an exporter.
In Sub-Saharan Africa, large producers are Burkina Faso, Nigeria, Tanzania, Zimbabwe and Benin.
The EAC Council of Ministers was chaired by Rwanda's Minister of State (Foreign Affairs, Regional Cooperation and East African Community Affairs), Ambassador Olivier Nduhungirehe and attended by ministers from all the EAC partner states and EAC executives.
The new move goes in line with a long time call from the East African Business Council (EABC) to boost intra-trade in EAC bloc that currently stands at 12 percent only, after 20 years of existence of the EAC.
The new strategy's vision makes a critical analysis of the CTA sector along key levels of the value chain, to wit, cotton seed (production); seed cotton (ginning); cotton lint (spinning); yarn (weaving/ Knitting/Printing/Dyeing/ Finishing), and Fabrics (garments/ apparels/fabrication/ manufacturing) level.
Ministers directed partner states to encourage sustainable procurement of all institutional uniforms, beddings, draperies by state institutions from textiles and fabric industries from the region.
The Council was preceded by a session of senior officials and the session of permanent/principal/ undersecretaries.
In order to make the strategy real and sustainable, the Council directed the Sectoral Council on Agriculture and Food Security to develop a strategy to boost the production of cotton in the region.
In their deliberations, the ministers observed that the seed cotton sector was constrained by low and declining production, low productivity, low quality and fluctuating farm gate prices.
Textile mills were further constrained by outdated technology; low spinning capacity, availability of cotton lint, high cost of energy and low skill levels.
The ministers were informed that inadequate supply of cotton lint forces millers to either buy or hold stock covering a one-year production cycle, or to shut down their production during off-seasons when they lack funds for bulk purchases.
The apparels sector on the other hand suffers mainly from low skills, low local market penetration by local producers and unfavorable trade practices, particularly contraband and used clothes.
The Council of Ministers meeting was also attended by ministers from all the EAC Partner States and EAC Executives.