I couldn’t help but keep digging a bit deeper on the net to what’s already been written out there, and I was so pleased to have stumbled on this extensively researched article by Ms. Uduak Oduok, Esq entitled “The Urgency of Now: putting Nigeria’s fashion industry on the global map” – I’ll highlight aspects that I felt were new to me personally, and will be immensely beneficial to us, but to read the entire article, which I would suggest, please see it (here).
Her angle on this as the title suggests, is majorly focused on the textile industry’s role in aiding the growth and advancement of the fashion industry within Nigeria. In spite of our failures, the fashion industry has progressed in carving a platform at home and abroad that we in the textile can not boast of. I do however agree with the article that THERE IS MORE! More to be gained and acquired within the fashion industry that will further enhance its growth. Needless to say, we’re focusing on the textile industry right now, so here’s a clip from what she had to say about the crisis we’re presently in:
Trade Policies: Prior to the mid-50s, Nigeria had a successful agricultural industry, exporting cash crops like cotton, cocoa and groundnut. The success of the agricultural industry paralleled with that of textiles. Textiles and agriculture went hand in hand as agriculture provided the raw materials i.e. cotton in the first step of the textile supply chain. By the mid-50s, however, the agricultural boom came to an end. Post 1960, attaining its independence and embracing nationalism, Nigeria adopted an import substitution strategy. This translated to control on cotton prices and high tariffs, among many tactics used, on imported textiles. From 1967-70 [the Biafra War] and later 1977, there was an outright ban on imported textiles. These bans were meant to provide leverage for Nigeria in its dealings with its trading partners. In fact, the 1977 ban, for example, was the result of what the government deemed a self-sufficient Clothing and Textile industry.
The government, arguably, got it right. As of 1980, Nigeria was ranked the third largest textile industry in Africa after Egypt and South Africa. However, amidst the oil boom of the 70s to 80s, Nigeria became over reliant on oil, to the detriment of its agricultural sector. Cotton production, for example, was in the 1980s, fifty percent below its production capacity. There was nothing in place to actively stop its rapid decline. Nigeria engaged in a culture of high consumption but produced less. By 1974, Nigeria was importing simple basics like food. Things would only worsen.
In 1985, President Ibrahim Babaginda took office. A year later, he steered Nigeria into an adoption of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund’s [IMF] Structural Adjustment Program [SAP]. SAP ran from 1986 to 1988 and was defined as a period of massive devaluation of the Naira.
Raw Materials: From 1903 to 1974, the British Cotton Growers Association was in place to help regulate and advocate for Cotton Growers. By 1974, it was replaced with the Nigerian Cotton Marketing Board who retained the same functionalities including added functions of marketing its cotton. By 1986, however, the year SAP was implemented, the board was abolished. What would follow, especially with no oversight, was a further deterioration within the cotton industry in terms of production capacity. This meant the textile industry had insufficient and at times no raw materials to work with. As a result, fabric manufacturers relied heavily on imported raw materials and other textile inputs to even begin fabric production.
Infrastructural issues and Unemployment: Exacerbating the problems above were infrastructural issues, particularly power supply. The constant power failure, also caused by a Nigeria Electric Power Authority [NEPA] operating well below its 6,000 MW capacity, made it extremely difficult for textile businesses to see a return on investments much less break even. The corresponding result was heavy retrenchments, huge turnover rates with the adverse effect of erosion of skilled workers, factory closures, riots and chaos.
Further, although Nigeria, especially during the import substitution era of the 70s had tried to make most of its textile plants Nigerian owned, the fact remained that foreigners had the major market share. In 1986, for instance, according to extensive research conducted by Swedish researchers on the union power in Nigeria’s textile industry, Nigeria’s Textile Manufacturer Association reported 75 members. Of these 75, 30 were Indian owned firms with the rest being Chinese and Lebanese. Only 4 of the 75 were reported as indigenous Nigerian owned firms. Amidst all the instability, huge operational cost, riots and corruption, these foreigners returned to their countries of origin. Sometimes, they left just as quickly as they had appeared leaving no retrenchment benefits.
“Bend Down Select” and Chinese Imports: ….For Nigeria’s textile industry, the lack of diversity and innovation in textile designs plus the aforementioned factors, made it extremely vulnerable. Chinese textile mills outpaced Nigeria in production capacity, labor/skilled workers, regulatory compliance in exporting to Western countries and innovative equipments. Worse, the Chinese did not spare Nigeria in its domestic market. The Chinese mastered and produced Nigerian designs like “ankara” and “”aso oke,” stamped “Made in Nigeria” on them and sold them in Nigeria as local products.
The affordability saw consumers shunning the more expensive and genuine Nigerian textiles for China’s cheap imports. Nigeria’s already stressed out textile industry saw even more factory closures, retrenchments, and lesser production capacity.
Now here’s what she had to say about a way forward, which by the way I think are brilliant suggestions and are in-line with what we want our industry to stand for especially in being environmentally friendly. I’ve only captured the first 4 out of 11 strong points she mentioned.
- Textile manufacturers and agricultural producers should collaborate to advocate for stronger infrastructure and government incentives that can help increase production of raw materials such as cotton.
- The clothing and textile industry should form a governmental relations arm within their respective sectors that undertake a comprehensive study and solutions on how to modernize, strengthen and get the industry to perform competitively locally and ultimately globally.
- The government should rethink and come up with stronger safeguard measures against Chinese and SHC imports. There is still a high rate of smuggling of products driven by affordability despite the ban on Chinese imports, for example. Thee one size fits all ban that worked in the 60s and 70s is no longer the solution for today. The government should undertake several measures and provide incentives to the average Nigerian that serves as deterrence for buying smuggled goods.
- All stakeholders should make a commitment to train and demand innovation in all phases of the supply chain. In addition, with respect to innovation, special emphasis should be added to natural/green textile goods that can be exported to the West as countries like the USA embark on a green economy.
I will continue to update us on any new-found information that aligns with our vision. Let me know if you’ve got any suggestions of your own, or perhaps you’ve got a contact in the industry, either past or present, I’d love to hear from you.