July 13, 2024

DG Okonjo-Iweala Urges Enhanced Collaboration to Boost Africa’s Cotton Trade

At the 9th Global Review of Aid for Trade on June 26, Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala highlighted the progress of the WTO-FIFA-led “Partenariat pour le Coton,” an initiative aimed at advancing African countries in the cotton value chain. She emphasized the need for increased collaboration to enable African cotton producers to maximize the benefits of cotton trade.

DG Okonjo-Iweala praised the assessment studies on cotton value chain development in the C4+ countries (Benin, Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, and Côte d’Ivoire) conducted by the International Trade Centre (ITC), the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), and Gherzi Textile Organization. She acknowledged the support from FIFA and the African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank) for these studies. “The WTO plays a crucial role in uniting this partnership,” she noted.

The DG highlighted the active involvement of both public and private sectors in the “Partenariat pour le Coton” initiative, including key players such as Afreximbank, Better Cotton Initiative (BCI), Cotton Made in Africa (CmiA), FIFA, the International Cotton Advisory Committee (ICAC), ITC, UNIDO, and the WTO. She expressed hope that the Africa Finance Corporation (AFC) and the Islamic Trade Finance Corporation (ITFC) would soon join the initiative.

“Each of our partners brings unique strengths,” said DG Okonjo-Iweala, referring to their contributions in financial support, business planning, skill training, certification, standard setting, logistics, and infrastructure building. This collective expertise is essential for supporting the development of the C4+ and other cotton-producing countries in Western and Central Africa.

She highlighted the key findings from the assessment studies, noting the C4+ countries’ potential to leverage their labor supply and produce quality apparel domestically, despite challenges in moving up the cotton value chain. The African cotton sector has the potential to create 500,000 direct jobs, particularly benefiting women and young people.

DG Okonjo-Iweala underscored the need for investment in infrastructure, including the establishment of industrial parks to add value in the cotton-apparel trade. She also stressed the importance of enhancing regional integration in the African cotton industry before expanding into external markets.

The WTO-FIFA initiative marks a significant step in helping Africa capture a larger share of the lucrative sports apparel market, valued at approximately USD 260 billion, according to the Director-General.

Looking ahead, DG Okonjo-Iweala called for unified efforts among all partners of “Partenariat pour le Coton.” She reaffirmed the WTO’s commitment to advancing negotiations on cotton and agricultural reform, stating, “We shouldn’t give up on [talks on] the Agriculture Agreement and the cotton initiative within it.”

Signing of Joint Declaration
Earlier, representatives from organizations including AFC, ITFC, ITC, UNIDO, and the WTO signed a joint declaration affirming their cooperation in supporting the WTO’s cotton value chain development projects in African countries. The declaration emphasizes promoting private sector engagement and investment in the Cotton-4 countries and other cotton-producing nations in West and Central Africa, aiming to boost regional production capacity. The parties also committed to establishing integrated regional hubs for sourcing sustainable textiles and clothing.

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