KAMPALA: Uganda must attract new investments into the collapsed textile industry if a revival of any kind is to be achieved in a sector that was once vibrant. The decline of the textile industry especially cotton sub-sector started in the 1970ís due to mismanagement of the economy.
Together with coffee and copper, cotton was part of the famed 3Cs - pillars of Uganda's economy before its collapse in the mid-seventies. At that time, Uganda was one of the best cotton producing countries on the continent. The textile industry at employed more than 500,000 people and earned the country more than US$ 100 million annually from export of lint cotton alone.
The 250,000 bales of cotton that Uganda produces annually are grown by small farmers in the south western district of Kasese and in eastern Uganda.
Attempts made so far at reviving the sub-sector under the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act (Agoa) through Apparels Tri-Star Limited has achieved limited success. Stakeholders in the sector have suggested a range of measures that should facilitate a faster development of the industry.
A meeting was organized by the Textile Development Agency (TEXDA) last week at a national consultative workshop to look at the opportunities and challenges in the sector. The meeting suggested that there should be a total ban on second hand clothes, removal of duty and other tax on textile machinery and raw materials and development of a cotton-textile policy among others.
Mr. Aaron Wanyama, the dean faculty of science, Kyambogo University and a chartered member of the Textile Institute of the United Kingdom (UK) said, "There is need to develop the whole value chain of textile industry from the fibre to the garment."
According to Mr. C. J. Okulo, the assistant commissioner in the department of industry and technology and the ministry of tourism, trade and industry,
"The present investments in the sector are not even working at optimal capacity. Presently most of them are working at below 50% installed capacity. Government therefore needs to support financing for modernization of existing mills," Okulo said.
Okulo believes capacity utilisation for local textile manufacturers can be stimulated if government bought local textile requirements for all government departments such as the armed forces and the police force, prisons, Uganda Wildlife Authority, hospitals and local administration police.
"The development of a strong and competitive local textile and clothing industry will take decades to be realised as long as the government remains complacent to the danger used clothes dumped into this country pose as a major hindrance to the development and investment in the local industry," Wanyama said.
Wanyama proposed a merger between the Uganda Textile Manufacturers Association and the Uganda Garment Manufactures' Association to form the Uganda Apparel and Textile Federation (UGATEF). If formed, UGATEF will enhance coordinated and collaborative policies and strengthen the common agenda on all matters necessary and beneficial for the development of the textile industry.