Industry And Cluster | News & Insights

Kenya and Uganda’s Cotton Sectors Are Stagnant

Published: October 11, 2023

The cotton sectors in Kenya and Uganda have encountered significant obstacles, impeding their progress despite their promising potential.

The potential reorganization within the highest levels of the Kenyan government holds promise for the country’s textile industry. Despite assurances from several officials regarding its revival, little progress has been observed since President William Ruto assumed office one year ago. 

During his tenure in the previous cabinet position, Kuria had issued several statements regarding the textile industry, which has experienced a decline since its peak in the 1980s. Kenya and Uganda, countries with a common border, are experiencing challenges in the cotton industry and a slowdown in garment production.

Numerous commitments for investment, originating from international and domestic sources, were made throughout the preceding year; however, only a limited number of these pledges were effectively fulfilled. One of the instances mentioned above pertains to the assertion made by the Kenyan government regarding a revitalization of the cotton industry. This claim, made in both January and August, outlined the government’s intention to allocate a sum of $1.6 million towards the establishment of new ginneries and the restoration of abandoned garment factories.

In September, President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda implemented a prohibition on importing second-hand clothing, citing its detrimental impact on the development of the nation’s garment sector. The Mbale Industrial Park is currently undergoing the establishment of numerous factories, encompassing various sectors such as textiles and apparel.

To revitalize the textile sector in both countries and generate employment opportunities and income for their economically disadvantaged populations, more than merely expressions of good intentions will be needed.

Kenya is arguably facing a more challenging situation than the other entities under consideration. There are 52 textile spinning mills, with only 15 currently in operation. In contrast, Uganda possesses an excess supply of cotton lint, leading to the exportation of approximately 93 percent of this commodity. Roughly 10 percent of domestically cultivated cotton is utilized domestically, with a significant portion allocated towards producing over one million school uniforms annually.

Richard D. Mubiru, the chairman of the Uganda Manufacturers Association, asserts that a contributing factor to the issue at hand lies in the reliance on a cohort of 250,000 smallholder farmers for production, with minimal governmental assistance provided to this group. Consequently, he asserted that the industry has been predominantly entrusted to ginners and cotton merchants who make minimal efforts towards its enhancement. Around the year 2001, Uganda formulated a strategic initiative aimed at enhancing agricultural productivity to approximately 185,000 tons by the year 2006. However, regrettably, this intended outcome was not successfully achieved.

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