Haute Couture sub-sector hamstrung with textile mills collapse
The Nigeria fashion industry, with its creativity in the use of fabrics to produce alluring styles, is merely standing on one leg.
Past governments, through their unstable policies, succeeded in diminishing efforts of enterprising designers, including Frank Oshodi, Zizi Cardow, Lanre Da Silva, Lisa Folawiyo, Deola Sagoe, among others, who, despite all these, are making waves across the world, while exploring the African Ankara and other local fabrics with flora and fauna prints.
These designers now spend huge sums of money to import fabrics, which is 1980 and 1990 were sourced locally.
Reports say currently, out of the over 300 textile companies that were scattered across the country, providing numerous fashion designers with quality fabrics to dress Nigerians, and for export, only 25 of them are still in operation. This number, aside from being too low and malnourishing, the haute couture sub-sector of the fashion industry, becomes a source of concern when the textile mills are operating very well below capacity – about 20 per cent of their installed capacity.
And from the look of things, the situation may not improve any time soon as virtually all the textile mills are laden with a plethora of challenges, including funding and inadequate power supply. This means, if the authorities concerned are not proactive in sustaining the height, which the fashion industry has reached, it would get to a level where its productivity will nosedive, and those making waves within and outside the country thrown into the already saturated labour market or forced to migrate to other countries to showcase their talents. This would not only mean loss of Internally Generated Revenue (IGR), but also a drop in the nation’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
According to research findings by Euromonitor published in 2019, the African fashion market is worth $31b, with Nigeria accounting for about $4.7b (15 per cent) of it. The figure is not only lower than South Africa’s current share of ($14.4b), though Nigeria has nearly four times its population, it can be improved upon with the nation’s rising population and resourceful youth.
While the report also puts the estimated value of Africa’s share of the global fashion industry market at about $2.5t, some designers and stakeholders in the industry believe that Nigerian couturiers would only get a sizable part of the market if different tiers of governments partner with them to remove all bottlenecks that are crippling the sector, and stopping it from emerging the leader in the sub-Saharan market.
In the past, the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) revealed that the textile, apparel and footwear sector has, since 2010, recorded a growth rate of 17 per cent, which was as a result of an increase in demand for and, partly by unprecedented initiatives that continue to push the Nigerian fashion globally.
Many designers and stakeholders have noted that what is happening is not healthy for the sector, and the nation’s economy, as it has negatively affected pricing, aside from rendering able-bodied people jobless.
They also observed that for the country to sustain its pride of place and have a flourishing haute couture, which is a major part of the fashion industry, its textile mills must be functional.
Outset Of The Rot
FROM the 1980s to 1990s, Nigeria was known across the West African sub-region and the world for its burgeoning textile industries, which recorded a yearly growth of 67 per cent, and engaging about 25 per cent of workers in the manufacturing sector.
During this period, about 600,000 local farmers across the country grew and supplied cotton to the Cotton, Textile, and Garment (CTG) industries. But today, many of these industries have gone underground and the 25 that are still operating are not meeting up with local demands, making the nation to depend heavily on imported fabrics from Europe, United States, China, India, Saudi Arabia, among others to sustain its local fashion industry.
The Acting General Secretary, National Union of Textile, Garment and Tailoring Workers of Nigeria, Ali Baba, but the woes of the Textile, Garment and Tailoring sector on government and its never-ending policy somersault.
He traced the origin of the problems to 1995 when Nigeria replaced the Multi-fibre Agreement (MFA) with the World Trade Organisation’s (WTO) Agreement on Textiles and Clothing (ATC).
The scribe pointed out that with the replacement, Nigeria had to remove all protection of its local textile industry, adding that it would have been proper for the nation’s policymakers to first, secure special arrangements with the WTO, such that its local textile industries would be protected until they were able to stand on their feet.
According to him, the WTO agreement opened the Nigerian market to cheaper textile imports, predominantly from China, as well as second-hand clothing from the United States and Europe.
However, before the expiration of the MFA, the United States had introduced the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), an initiative that opened up the American market to African countries to export to the U.S., but instead of African countries enjoying the window opened to them, China with its textiles proved stronger and took over the U.S. market.
This, on its own, set most African countries backward, as many of them, particularly Nigeria, is yet to recover from the setback.
Ailing Textile Industries In Kaduna, Kano
In Kano, quarters including Sharada Phase I and II, Challawa and Bompai are well-recognised as industrial hubs with textile companies manufacturing different fabrics scattered around it.
Largely dominated by Lebanese businessmen, the old famous sector has a history of providing employment opportunities for the teeming youths in the North.
Conversely, the good old stories of the 1980s and 1990s of textile industries in Kano have changed. The booming sector that accounted for almost 20 large-scale industries can hardly produce five ailing factories, running above 50 per cent capacity.
The acting General Secretary, National Union of Textile, Garment and Tailoring Workers of Nigeria, Ali Baba, identified epileptic power supply, lack of patronage, and invasion of foreign fabrics dominating the markets as part of factors hindering the growth of the local textile industries.
According to him: “Power remains one of the critical challenges killing textile industries in northern Nigeria, especially in Kano and Kaduna, where factories dominate. Our power generation has not exceeded 5, 000 megawatt in a long time. Sometimes, we have as low as 2,500 or 3,000 megawatts. This is not enough to run a successful textile industry.
“Aside from smuggling and counterfeits, foreign textiles are another major challenge. Local fabrics are synonymous with Nigeria and northern Nigeria in particular because the first textile industry in Nigeria was situated in Kaduna State.
“Unfortunately, we now have a situation where criminal elements take the best of our designs to China to reproduce and return to Nigeria to sell them within the range of N3, 000 to N4, 000.”
Baba disclosed that Nigerians and not Chinese are to be blamed for our woes in the sector because it is the Nigerian businessmen that usually take the samples of our local fabrics to China to reproduce.
He noted that even with the closure of the country’s borders, Nigerians could not exhaust Chinese fabrics already stocked in different warehouses across the country for the next seven years.
Commenting on various interventions aimed at rejuvenating the sector, the Acting General Secretary noted that such interventions have not begun yielding any meaningful fruits because of other issues, including infrastructure, quality, and standard, the market, taxation, among others have not been properly handled.
“Textile factory owners pay the cost of demurrage when they have not even sourced funds to clear their raw materials at the seaports, or transport them up North. There are multiple taxes on the road, aside from other risks. The Federal Government needs to reduce all these liabilities and make policies that will mandate agencies and departments to patronise locally produced products,” he stated.
A National Council member of the Manufacturer Association of Nigeria (MAN) and Managing Director of Tofa Textile Limited, Sulaiman Isiyaku Umar, also decried the sad state of textile industries in Kano, considering the huge economic viability and employment opportunity abound in the sector.
Umar also attributed the failing state of the textile industry partly to inconsistent government policies that stagnate the system as soon as there is regime change, aside from the huge and multiple taxations from various government agencies.
Saving A Sinking Sector
REALISING that Nigeria is losing over $4b yearly for opening its borders to foreign textile companies to bring in fabrics into the country, the government placed a ban on imported finished textiles, in order to protect local manufacturers and designers. Despite this, smuggling has persisted, especially through the Benin Republic, Chad, and Niger borders.
According to the Director-General, Nigerian Textile Manufacturers Association (NTMA), Mr. Hamma Kwajaffa, about 85 per cent of textiles sold in the country are smuggled, and the country loses around $325m in potential Value Added Tax (VAT) revenue annually from this.
To revamp dormant textile industries, the Bank of Industry (BoI) in 2010, released N30b as a grant to the textile industry, as part of the Cotton, Textiles and Garment Industry Revival Scheme passed at the end of 2009. The Kaduna textile industry received an N24b grant, which was part of the N100b expected to be injected into the industry.
The then Vice President, Namadi Sambo, disclosed that the initiative would create jobs for more than 2, 000 Nigerians. After the presentation, the programme went like others, as nothing much was heard of it. The factories are still not producing as expected.
However, in continuation of the government’s intervention, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), early last year, placed a restriction on the sale of foreign exchange to importers of textiles and other clothing materials in the country, stating that the measure would reposition the textile, cotton and garment industry to provide jobs, create wealth and ginger the economy.
In addition to this, the government would provide loans at 4.5 per cent interest rate to textile manufacturers at a single digit interest rate to enable them to retool and upgrade their factories to produce high-quality textile materials for the local and export markets.
Aside the Anchor Borrowers Programme, the CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele, said not long ago that the bank would support local farmers to grow cotton for textile firms, as well as support efforts to source high-yield cotton seedlings to ensure that yields from cotton farmers meet global standards.
Emefiele also disclosed that the apex bank would support the creation of textile production centres in designated areas, stressing that the government has begun discussions with the Kano and Kaduna states’ governments to establish textile industrial areas to guarantee stable electricity in those industrial areas.
The Real Situation
THE former National Chairman of the Nigerian Textile Manufacturers Association (NTMA), Ibrahim Igomu, said the ban placed on imported textile and finished clothing does not mean that the country would automatically stop buying textiles or clothing from other countries.
He explained that the policy would only discourage importers from sourcing textile materials from overseas, but to look inwards and source their raw materials locally.
For Hilary Nwosu, a fashion designer, repositioning the textile industry was beyond mere policymaking as most times, the government would speak from both sides of their mouths, a development, which made operations in the sector unstable.
Nwosu, the proprietor of Hilary Couture, called for a sustainable blueprint, which subsequent governments would use as a guide to steer the fashion industry in the right direction.