Now is the time to revive textile industry

Tuesday September 27 2016



Workers in a textile company. File photo

Workers in a textile company. File photo 

By Prof Aaron Wanyama

Time has come for Uganda to do whatever it takes to develop her own strong and vibrant textile and clothing industry using our excellent cotton which is being exported 96 per cent and above in raw form. What we are not doing right as a cotton growing country is to continue giving away millions of jobs to outsiders by not adding value to our very good cotton.
If the government was serious and implemented the National Textile Policy by creating the National Textile and Clothing Development Authority, this country would be creating 5,000 jobs every year across the value chain i.e. from growing cotton to garment manufacture for school uniforms, bedsheets for internal consumption and exports, etc.
Because this country has not seriously implemented the National Textile Policy, textile firms like African Textile MILL in Mbale, Lira Spinning Mill, Mulco Textiles in Jinja, Rayon Textiles in Kawempe etc, have closed and yet the policy had measures and plans to revive these key industries in this country.

Kyambogo University has a four year degree programme that trains textile and clothing technologists every year. We, therefore, have trained and technical human resource to work in any area of textile and clothing production and that is why support by right thinking and development oriented business Ugandans for the revival and development of our local textile and clothing industry should be paramount instead of stifling its growth by promoting the import and sale of used second hand clothes without giving the local industry time and space to develop.

I am happy that Uganda Prisons has been mandated by government to begin growing cotton on a large scale, a feat which the Cotton Development Organisation has failed to do over the last 20 years or so. What will happen with this cotton if we do not embark on value addition now by putting in place structures and doing everything possible to promote both local and foreign investment in the industry? Ugandans have to be weaned off mivumba so that they can begin step by step and get used to buying locally made textiles and garments or clothes.
The time is now and not tomorrow. Otherwise we stand as a country to remain slaves to rich countries and depend on them for life.

In the words of Mr Steven Turyahikayo, whose article in Saturday Monitor of September 17, I am responding to, we should not shy away from addressing the problems in the clothing industry in this country. We are capable of developing a strong and vibrant textile and clothing industry if we can implement the National Textile Policy not in piece meal but comprehensively by putting in place a specialised body like the National Textiles Board did in the 70s and 80s with a mandate to oversee and manage the revival and development of a vibrant textile industry in Uganda.

Is it a question of lack of funds to do this or why is the textile and clothing industry not a priority for the Ministry of Trade and Industry at this point in time ? We stand to deny jobs and a livelihood to millions of young people in this country if we don’t embark on the difficult journey of getting rid of used second clothes and invest seriously in value addition and develop our own textile and clothing industry.
Prof Aaron Wanyama
Textile technologist,
Kyambogo University

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