New strategy to revamp Uganda’s textile sector

Tuesday August 13 2019

Workers of at a factory in Uganda. The country plans to implement a new textile strategy. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP


Uganda has completed the development of a strategy for its cotton, textiles and apparels sector that could generate 50,000 new jobs and $650 million in additional export revenues over the next eight years.

The strategy, which is also supposed to feed into the third edition of the National Development Plan NDPIII, should result in increased fibre cotton production, scale up domestic value addition and create employment.

Besides the need to address structural and policy bottlenecks that currently hamper development of the cotton value chain, there will be a need to establish five new vertically integrated textile mills.

In addition to increasing value to Uganda’s cotton output, the factories would employ 50,000 workers earning a combined $50 million annually.

The strategy proposes to revive the cotton production value chain and investment in export-oriented apparel as well as garment production factories that would initially rely on imported fabric.



Cotton makes up only 20 per cent of the fabrics used by the global garments industry, with the other 80 per cent coming from synthetic sources.

According to Junior Minister for Trade Michael Werikhe, 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. “We have a good plan and all we need to do is to make sure that we implement it,” he said.

Condensed around 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 targeted FDI into the sector while supporting existing industrial players to develop into integrated value chains that export full value apparel products.

With only two integrated textiles and garment plants operational, Uganda earns $20 million from lint and apparels exports annually.

Only 10 per cent of the 30,000 tonnes of lint produced is currently processed into fabric, with production mainly serving the domestic and regional markets.

Under the strategy, the proportion of processed lint would be progressively raised to 75 per cent of production or 20,000 tonnes annually based on current output.

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

“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 reads.

With 41 per cent of the youth out of active employment and 48 per cent self-employed in low paying economic activity, reactivation of Uganda’s textile value chain could boost national income.

Planners say the textile sector could generate up to $650 million in export revenues annually if the strategy is implemented.

“We face critical choices and there is a need to prioritise resources. If we choose the right industries, we can convert our young labour force into an asset,” said Msingi East Africa executive director Aggie Konde.