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Spinning a Revival in Nigeria’s Textile Industry

Kano is said to have had about eighteen
factories with as many as 120,000 employees making material for the
local and international market. Lagos had sixty such factories which
engaged about 250,000. 
 

Decades
ago, Kaduna was referred to as the “textile city”. At the height of its
manufacturing prowess, it had eight textile factories which employed
about 30,000 people; other cities also churned out a sizeable quantity
of fabric from several production centres. Kano is said to have had
about eighteen factories with as many as 120,000 employees making
material for the local and international market. Lagos had sixty such
factories which engaged about 250,000. Aba, Asaba, Gusau, Funtua and
Port Harcourt were also thriving spinning and ginning cities. Nigeria
rivaled Egypt and South Africa for supremacy in the fabrication of
textile in Africa. Those were the glory days.
These days, many of the once buoyant
factories have been conquered by grass, and the old roofs of these
structures have collapsed to expose the machines and material they house
to the ravages of rust and rot. The North has been especially hard hit:
the engines Kaduna’s fabric creating factories have ground to a halt,
and many others have gone out of business in Kano. Cities in other parts
of the country have not been spared by the death and decay in the
sector. And there are a number of reasons for this ongoing collapse.
The town of Funtua in Katsina State is
located in a cotton-growing territory. Funtua textiles is a company
named after the town in which it is situated, and in its days of
prosperity, it had a staff strength of about 2,500. But by 2015, this
had sharply declined to about 750. The company’s head of human resource
put his finger on a number of problems which had led to the downturn in
the company’s business: inaccessible markets for products, obsolete
machines, power problems and multiple taxations. Obviously, these
difficulties have plagued the industry as a whole. And because these
obstacles persist, the remnants of the industry in Nigeria continue to
die a slow and painful death. While Funtua’s human resource man did not
note it, the deluge of cheap foreign wear has all but driven many local
producers out of business. There’s also the trouble with importing dyes
and (unfortunately) cotton, as well as challenges encountered with the
process of getting foreign exchange for the purchase of these inputs.
There is still great potential in the
textile industry. But in order to raise the level of productivity of
this part of the nation’s economic setup, the problems which have
blighted it need to be addressed. The legendary trouble with inadequate
power supply has to be overcome. Other things should be done too. Saidu
Adhama, founder of a textile company in Kano recommended in an article
written for a newspaper, that the Nigerian Customs Service and Nigeria
Immigration Service should work to eliminate the dumping of substandard
textile, and deal decisively with cases of foreigners doing business in
Nigeria with visiting visas or fake entry documents. He also recommended
the setting up of a spinning and ginnery plant in each of the six
geo-political zones to serve as a springboard for cotton, textile and
garment production projects in these zones. However, the infant industry
argument, which he also seems to advocate, is a controversial one. It
involves the placing of bans on various textile imports. The aim is to
protect local industries from unfair competition from cheap imports.
Despite disagreements on what the best policy to employ is in dealing
with dumping, one thing is clear: Nigeria’s textile industry is too
important to be left in dire straits.
BY: Ikenna Nwachukwu
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