History of Nigeria’s textile industry – beginning stages & its collapse: (seeking to know more comprehensively, where we started from, and why the industry failed).
History is important… and in searching out facts for today’s lesson, I came across this quote that I absolutely love by Winston Churchill, and it says,
“History will be kind to me for I intend to write it.”
Isn’t that brilliant? I think it is, but I could be biased; you see, I can’t say that I’ve ever been a fan of history class, and that includes Art history! So naturally I gravitated to that quote because I thought, hmm, maybe instead of writing about “history”, I could just re-write it to what it ought to be!!! But on second thought, I realized that for the benefit of others, perhaps we should just dab a bit into where it all began.
Getting down to business:
*There’s a lot of information on our history online and so I’ll just give snippets because our focus isn’t on what we already know, it’s majorly on what we hope to learn from, either mistakes or triumphs, and also to make better choices going forward. I would encourage you to look up at your convenience areas in our history that you need more clarity on.
So, we know that in 1955, the very first industrial textile factory was built in Kaduna State by the collaborative efforts of a British textile company, and the Nigerian government, and by 1957 production commenced. It’s also good to note that in the 70’s, multiple textile factories had opened-up not just in Kaduna state but also in other parts of the nation. We also gathered that in the 80’s, our textile industry was the 3rd largest producer in Africa with South Africa and Egypt leading the pack. Things started to go a bit downhill in the 90’s when by 1997 we saw that a good number of top performing factories started to produce way below full capacity and the numbers only got worse from there. By 2007 a large percentage of factories had completely been shut down. Based on figures collected, our highest number of factories whilst in our booming years was roughly over 150 throughout the nation, but sadly, that figure sits below 40 today.
Now that we’ve covered the brief narrative of where we began and the highlights along the way, let’s focus our attention on why the industry began to dwindle, and continued to do so, with seemingly no resolve.
- Power outages – I know that this is a major problem in the nation, but there are other industries out there that are still thriving despite the same conditions that the textile industry had to face in regards to power. When I say industries that are thriving, I mean for instance the restaurant business; they NEED a daily supply of power in order to serve their customers and we all know that we’re not in lack of excellent catering services across the nation (granted I’m sure they too would advocate that their monies be spent on other areas of growth versus diesel consumption). So why then did we place emphasis on power outage as being a major factor in our decline? In my opinion, I believe our sector requires constant power supply for almost every tier of production. With this problem at hand, we see another major issue that halted progress in our industry that only made matters worse.
- Higher production costs – There’s simply no way to maintain your price points at any level to the customers when your production costs have skyrocketed. Production costs will obviously be affected when the conditions in which your business is situated aren’t stable nor favorable especially when we consider the fact that raw materials like dyes, spare parts and chemicals were also imported. Speaking of imported goods…
- Importation – It is clear that things really took a dive for the worse when policies adopted allowed for the almost, what I call, “free flow” of textiles from predominantly Asian nations, and also Europe. When the government felt they needed to crack down on this overflow, they banned the importation of various textiles, but of course everyone knew that the majority of fabrics sold in our markets were more than likely not made in Nigeria. The ban some say made smuggling of fabrics the way of life. Today we know that the present administration has lifted these bans – good or bad?
- Quality – when a system has not been updated, it is obvious that there will be failures and set-backs! In our case, the industry continued to spiral out of control when required updates to technological advancements were not attended to. I am not placing blame on anyone; with what we’ve seen from our points above, the price of acquiring necessary upgrades probably were overridden by the daily demands of running the business and of course the up-keep of the workers, among other things. Because of this, I truly believe that when imported goods began to flood our markets, most factories that were still in existence could not out-perform their foreign competitors. We know that these nations that we patronize have invested heavily in their manufacturing sectors; a lot more than we’re probably willing to invest in as a nation.
- Low patronage – we can not blame the society for not patronizing our Nigerian made fabrics because like we’ve stated above, these factories aren’t dealing with the same harsh conditions as their competitors and therefore it is very understandable that their products aren’t comparable. Even when you’ve got a fabric of equal quality, be rest assured that the price tag of the Nigerian made will be slightly higher.
- Lack of Technical Institutions – the younger generation in my opinion will only read about the days of textile sciences being taught in our higher institutions… that can be changed, but are we willing to work hard in developing this area. I’m sure I’ll be addressing this at a later post.
** of course there are other factors but I believe these cover the major issues.
What I think I can learn from our industry’s history and collapse lies in our understanding of purpose or its reason for existence. It is clear that when the industry began, the vision or intent was not clearly stated; in my opinion, it was merely a thing to be done. I strongly believe that if we understand why we need to bring about a rebirth of this industry, we will strive to develop ourselves, improve upon what we already know, educate the younger generation, implement creative ways of engaging the people on the benefits of standing by “us” and so much more. Knowing why we ought to exist and thrive is so vitally important.