Is sustainability the key to unlocking the potential of Togo’s textile industry? | [term:name] 2021

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– The Togolese textile industry has been the key to GDP for decades

– The last few years have seen sustained efforts to increase its value

– Sustainability is at the heart of national and regional initiatives

– Challenges remain in terms of infrastructure and training 4IR

As Togo positions itself as a regional leader in terms of textile production, the country is placing more emphasis on sustainability and digitization as it seeks to maximize value along the supply chain.

As OBG recently explored, the global textile industry is one of the main contributors to climate change: with annual pre-pandemic emissions of 1.2 billion tonnes, it is the second largest industrial polluter, just behind the oil and gas industry.

This situation has led many players in the textile industry to focus more on sustainability and other environmental, social and governance principles.

Opened in June this year, the Industrial Platform of Adetikopé Textile Park aims to transform the value chain of the country’s clothing industry, as well as boost exports of cotton textiles and finished garments.

The park’s commitment to sustainability is evident in a series of measures: among others, it will deal with 100% sustainably sourced cotton, according to Cotton Made in Africa standards; use 100% renewable electricity, offsetting 20 tonnes of carbon emissions per day; recycle 90 to 95% of the water used during treatment; and comply with independent international certifications for dyeing and finishing of fabrics.

In addition, the project will also generate considerable economic benefits, as it is expected to generate around 20,000 direct jobs and 80,000 indirect jobs, and contribute up to 21% to the national GDP.

“Sustainability is at the heart of Togo’s development plans, especially for the textile industry,” Cynthia E. Gnassingbe-Essonam, general secretary of Togo Invest, told OBG. “If Togo wants to be competitive on the world stage, it must be careful in the use of its resources and ensure that the energy sources are reliable and have a good mix of renewable energies.

Another public-private partnership that demonstrates Togo’s commitment to sustainable development is Mohamed Bin Zayed’s 50 MW solar power plant in the country’s central region. Opened on June 24, it is the largest plant of its kind in West Africa and will provide electricity to 158,333 households.

The plant was built by Dubai-based AMEA Power, which was attracted by Togolese “renewable energy” regulations. The project received $ 8 billion in pre-financing from Togo’s National Development Plan, while 80% of the construction workforce was recruited locally.

A history of textile production

While these new developments give new impetus to the national clothing industry, Togo has an established reputation as a textile powerhouse.

In the 1970s, the country was considered the center of trade in West Africa, with the textile industry its main source of income.

Women entrepreneurs known as Nana Benz (with “Nana” meaning mother in Togolese, and “Benz” being a reference to their preferred mode of transport) positions the capital, Lomé, as a regional textile distribution center.

In the early 2000s, however, Nana Benz fabrics faced stiff competition from the Chinese market, whose textiles sold for a tenth the price of those produced in Togo.

This sparked efforts to boost the sector, and between 2011 and 2015, cotton exports more than doubled in volume, from 19 million kg to 44 million kg. In 2017, Togo’s main import markets for textiles and clothing were China, accounting for almost 50% of the total, followed by Japan (18.9%), Vietnam (4.38%), India (4.04%) and Germany (3.26%).

These efforts have continued, but the textile industry is still widely considered to have untapped potential, both to consolidate its centrality in Togo’s GDP and to increase the country’s interconnectivity with regional and global markets.

“The cotton industry already has its own economic weight but, with more added value, the industry could become an axis of development not only for Togo but for the whole of West Africa”, declared Gnassingbe-Essonam at OBG.

This is a feeling shared by Jesse Damsky, the president of the Industrial Platform of Adetikopé. “Despite Togo’s small size, the country offers enormous potential for growth and international connections. In addition, the government’s support for the exploitation of natural resources and the creation of value for the industrial sector is unwavering, ”he told OBG. “Togo already has booming cotton, cocoa, phosphates and coffee exports, while the opportunity for immediate transformation lies in the garment and textile industry. “

Improve logistics, take advantage of digitization

While there is a lot of optimism around the Togolese textile industry, there are still several obstacles to overcome for the sector to realize its full potential.

Many of these relate to infrastructure, and particularly energy supply – a gap that projects such as the Mohamed Bin Zayed solar power plant aim to fill.

“The cost of energy is the tipping point for the viability and longevity of a thriving textile industry in Togo,” Damsky told OBG. “Reliable energy is hard to come by in West Africa and the textile industry consumes a lot of water and electricity. Balancing these two resources is a key challenge that Togo will face over the next decade. “

The poor quality of roads and the lack of transport infrastructure constitute an additional obstacle to trade in the region. However, as the OBG has extensively detailed, the African Continental Free Trade Area is expected to serve to improve infrastructure, unlock market potential and create more integrated supply chains.

Another key issue relates to maximizing the potential of the latest technological developments, and in particular those associated with the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR).

New digital technologies have already started to impact Togolese society.

For example, the BBC recently reported that the Togolese Ministry of Posts, Digital Economy and Technological Innovations had worked with a team from the University of California at Berkeley to produce a “poverty map” of Togo.

This process involved filtering the satellite images using a computer algorithm to establish which were the poorest regions of the country. The card then served as the basis for distributing emergency money via cellphones to those hardest hit by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Elsewhere, Togolese farmers have started using drones to spray pesticides on rice crops. A Lomé-based school called e-AgriSky teaches local farmers how to operate the devices, which, in addition to increasing yields and reducing costs, is also much safer than hand spraying crops. By 2025, the school hopes to have trained 8,000 certified drone pilots.

In the future, digital technologies will also be essential to increase the value of the Togolese textile industry.

“Working with seed cotton is difficult and labor intensive, especially compared to other crops in similar areas. Fortunately, there are increasing levels of mechanization in the cultivation of seed cotton which is slowly eroding the hard-working nature of cotton cultivation, ”Jacky Riviere, country head of the multinational agribusiness Olam in Chad, told OBG.

But as the industry is on the verge of adopting 4IR, it will require a sufficiently well-trained workforce.

“Training and digitalization go hand in hand. Without the people needed to take new technologies and operate with them, few companies or sectors of the economy will benefit, ”Gnassingbe-Essonam told OBG. “For this reason, stakeholders and decision-makers in Togo have been proactive in creating study and education centers. “


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