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Nigeria: Stakeholders chart way towards reviving textile sector

Nigeria: Stakeholders chart way towards reviving textile sector
A textile worker in the Nigerian city of Kano
Published date:
Saturday, 08 June 2013
Debo Oladimeji

Since the collapse of the Textile industry in the nineties, there has been a clamour for the industry that used to be a source of employment to many people to be revamped. It has been said in many fora that Nigerians must not wait for people from other economies to clothe them. Instead, stakeholders should begin to act on how they can export local brands to other countries.

The possibility of getting Presidential support for Nigerians to always wear made-in-Nigeria fabrics on May Day and Independence Day celebration and to create a made-in-Nigeria market in Balogun Market among others were discussed at the 6th  Advisory Board Meeting of Fashion Textile Stakeholders’ Forum in Lagos.

It was acknowledged that imitations of made-in -Nigerian goods are coming in shiploads of containers from China. They are branded with the Nigerian local brand name. While the truly made-in-Nigeria is selling for N570, the China imitations sell for N350. So people prefer to buy the one from China.

Joseph Ikemefuna Odumodu, the Director General/Chief Executive of Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON), argued that if Nigerian products were not good, the Chinese will not be copying them.

“People only copy successful products. There is a challenge. Technology also changes our consumption habits. How can we ensure that our agricultural products are competitive?” he said.

Kenya, he noted, makes money from exporting flowers to Europe everyday. “If Nigeria exports yarn to UK, they will destroy it. But if it is from Ghana, they will not even test it. Multinational companies now have farms in Malawi and some other countries in East Africa where they are training the farmers on extension services and all that. One day, Nigeria’s oil will finish and the poor are going to be angry with the rich people in Nigeria,” he warned.

He declared that if people are gainfully employed they will not have time for Boko Haram activities.

“Why should we allow people from our small neighbours like Togo to come and take up the jobs that our people can do,” he wondered.

Odumodu canvassed a holistic look at the value chain of the industry. “We can partner with the schools to ensure they patronise made-in-Nigeria fabrics. We cannot force people, we need to build an enduring relationship. May be May Day and Independence Day should be declared a day people should put on made-in-Nigeria fabrics,” he said.

He regretted that when the textile industry collapsed, about one million people lost their jobs. “The textile industry is something that can change the economy if we get them going. We need the equipment to detect fake products. We have to go to the market, and destroy them. If you do that consistently for three months, sellers will think twice before they stock fake products.” he added.

Farmers in the North, he noted, now prefer to grow maize instead of cotton because they believe that they can make more money in maize. “We need to provide incentives for the farmers. We need to give the textile industry a new energy to bounce back.”

Ghanaians, he said, have found good market for their products in Nigeria. “How were they able to do that? We need to do introspection. Look at where we are and where we want to be,” he said.

Joy Chinwokwu, Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Best of the World (B.O.W.), Lagos, the convener of the event, regretted that there is no market for Nigerian brands.

“The Chinese have bombarded our market with fake products. People go to China to manufacture substandard products to come and sell in Nigeria,” she said.

She expressed regret that people are not patronizing made-in-Nigeria fabrics. “Another challenge is that our products are not available in the market. We have to create market for made-in-Nigeria brands. We must pull out of those orthodox markets and create our own market.”

She also promised to start organising regular exhibitions to encourage people to patronize made-in-Nigeria fabrics. “There is going to be Textile and Fashion International Expo to expand the local market for home-made brands by providing shopping avenues for local and international lovers of Nigerian brands, creating export opportunities for homemade brands, attracting foreign direct investment to the country, attracting commercial tourism to Nigeria and generally promoting promising fashion and textile (and other complementary) businesses,” she said.

The B.O.W CEO said that by the Year 2014 when Nigeria marks its centenary, the Textile and Fashion Industry in Nigeria, would have been fully transformed into a multi-million dollar global business, significantly impacting on several other key sectors.

According to her, participants are going to wear Made- in-Nigeria products during the international expo.

“We need to partner with the banks and the telecom sector. We are working with United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO), United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO).”

Chinwokwu added that Nigerians are good tailors, but textile-wise the country is not doing very well. She stressed that there is the need to build capacity. If the textile sector is resurrected, she said, it is going to promote employment and reduce youth restiveness. “We want state legislation to promote patronage of made-in-Nigeria fabrics. Graduate trainees don’t have where to work. The fashion designers now go to Republic of Benin or Togo to recruit tailors,” she added.

Joseph Modey, National Directorate of Employment (NDE), Lagos State coordinator, explained why there has not been market for Nigerian products and why it is difficult to access made-in-Nigeria products.

“The issue actually is that of quality and competition. Competition has now become a part of life and we have to face it. There is the need to increase the quality of the Nigerian yarn. We must improve on the quality of cotton planted by the farmers.”

The vast cotton farms in Turkey, he said, are supported by researches. “They do not export cotton. What they export is textile. They create jobs through the textile industry across the nation.”

He regretted that China has taken over the Nigerian market with its products because it has been able to address the issue of production cost.

“We cannot solve this problem by legislation. You cannot force people to buy what they don’t want to wear. Let us face the issue: We need to make products that are competitive. NDE has been training a lot of the youths. They are there ready to upgrade their skills so that Nigerian fashion designers will not go and hire Togolese tailors again,” he said.

Yinka Fisher, Centre Manager, Small and Medium Enterprises Development Agency (SMEDAN), Lagos, on his part said that the three important things in the industry are market, price and quality.

“We need to do something in the area of sensitization. We need to create awareness to change Nigerians’ taste for foreign products,” he said.

Umego Adaora Joy, scientific officer of Consumer Protection Council (CPC), Lagos, said that the major problems of the Nigerian fabric are that of quality and awareness. “An average Nigerian is not patriotic when it comes to buy made-in Nigeria products. Awareness needs to go to the people. But how do we appreciate what we have? If it is not of good quality? Or if the products are not accessible?” she queried.

CPC, she noted, is going to create awareness but other stakeholders need to work hand-in-hand with it.

“When we go to the market we need to see what we are talking about. Can’t we create a made-in-Nigeria market in Balogun Market, Lagos?

She drew a line in the sand to show how the imitation of DaViva Fabrics and Wax Prints, made- in- Nigeria by United Nigeria Textile is now coming from China.

Mr. Philip Biodun Kayode, Dept of Polymers Textile Technology, Yaba College of Technology admitted that the problem of textile industry in Nigeria spanned over 20 years.

“About 180 textile companies were alive in Lagos then, now only about 25 textile companies in the whole of Nigeria are functioning. How far can that go in meeting the demand for textile with our population,” he queried.

He expressed regret that in the North where cotton thrives, farmers would rather plant maize (instead of cotton) because there is high demand for it by the breweries. Again, the farmers can grow maize twice a year.

“If we cannot produce textile, people can make money by bringing imported fabrics. How many of our fashion industries can afford computerized machines,” he said.

Kayode urged people who have money to invest in the textile industry.

“Electricity has been stable in Ghana, here, it is not so. Most of the industries are relying on generators. We complain about quality. We wear made-in-Holland fabrics once in a year. But made-in-Nigeria we wash and wear it three times in a week. It is our mindset that is the problem. The rich people want to invest in buy and sell and not production,” he said.

Tunde Thani, CEO Explicit Communications was interested in how advertizing can be used to create market for made- in-Nigeria goods?

“Even some of the foreign fabrics are made here and branded here.

“There is a value chain. Along the value chain, stakeholders can invest in it. Is it not possible for made- in-Nigeria fabrics to be taken to Ghana and be re-exported to Nigeria? It is a battle of the mind. We need to sit down and come up with a proposal. Once we have identified the problems it is half solved,” he said.

Anuoluwapo Gbadegesin, trade promotion officer, Nigerian Export Promotion Council regretted that the textile industry is in distress.

“It boils down to quality. If something is not acceptable locally, how do you export it? The African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) initiative was to train people to meet the US standard. We need to do more apart from sensitization, because people can buy one and will not go back to the market to buy another one.

“We need to produce exportable quantities. It is important to sustain the demand for export,” she argued.

Jaiyeola Paul Olarewaju, Director General, Nigerian Textile Manufacturer Association and Nigerian Textile Garments and Tailoring Employers Association said that the Federal Government has made available N100 billion to resuscitate the textile industry. “But according to the Bank of Industry (BOI), only over 40 billion has been disbursed … which means that more investors can still invest in the industry to help the country out of a mono economy and over dependence on oil,” he said.

In a keynote address by Minister of Trade and Investment, Dr Olusegun Aganga, on the occasion of the first fashion and textile industry stakeholders’ forum held in Abuja recently, he said that the textile industry in particular, was once a haven for local and international investors.

“At its peak, the industry offered some of the highest job opportunities in the country. It produced very high standard products that were locally and internationally accepted. While the news is no longer that cheerful, it is heart-warming that Nigerian designs have remained very attractive across the globe.”

He disclosed that people should look beyond show business and general razzmatazz to the impact they need to leave on our economy and national unity.

“The time is now, to look inward to patronize Nigerian made fabrics and other local raw materials. We must realize the damage we pose on our economy, on our cultural heritage, and our national pride when we shun local brands in preference for products from other economies. We must recognize our power as designers to dictate the taste (or better still, trend) of a population,” he said.


Author: Debo Oladimeji 

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