Kenya and India have fostered their long-standing bilateral relations by collaborating in the exchange of technological advancements in the textile industry, which is aimed at boosting Kenya Kwanza’s textile revival strategy.
To enhance this collaboration, the India International Textile Machinery Exhibitions (ITME) Society is hosting a textile technology exhibition from November 30 to December 2, 2023, which seeks to promote joint ventures and business cooperation for Indian textile and machine manufacturers, along with other 25 participating countries, to explore the potential of Kenya as a new business.
State Department for Industry Principal Secretary (PS), Dr. Juma Mukhwana, speaking on Thursday during the exhibition’s opening ceremony, said that the government is focused on ensuring that the textile sector generates maximum employment and alleviates unemployment.
The PS said that the government is excited to be hosting around 300 textile technology companies, which goes a long way in the drive to revive the apparel and textile sector.
“India is a leading textile technology producer, and the partnership between the two countries will make Kenya a gateway for these technologies in Africa,” said the PS.
He continued… “We had a very vibrant textile sector in Kenya before 1990, where we had nearly 52 factories, most of which closed for various reasons, including liberalisation.”
The PS said that last year the country only grew 5,000 acres of cotton, which has increased to 40,000 acres this year, and in 2024 the acreage will increase to 100,000 in 24 counties like Busia, Homa Bay, Vihiga, Bungoma, Kwale, and Lamu, among others.
“In the recent past, we only had seven operational ginneries, but right now, three new ones are coming up in Lamu, Homa Bay, and Kwale,” said Mukhwana.
He added that the government has increased the buying price for cotton lint from Sh. 52 to Sh. 65 per kilogramme as he encouraged the farmers to grow more cotton.
Dr. Mukhwana explained that negotiations for the extension of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) are in progress, with the first meeting being held in South Africa a fortnight ago.
The Kenya-European Union (EU) agreement has been concluded and will be signed on December 17, 2023. The agreement will give Kenya a quota and duty-free market of 27 countries in the EU.
Dr. Mukhwana said that this year in his State Department, they have allocated Sh100 million for the purchase of cotton seeds for farmers, up from Sh25 million last year. The Ministry of Agriculture has also allocated an additional Sh100 million, and 24 counties combined have set aside Sh400 million for cotton, and all these resources will enable the country to reach the target of 100,000 acres of cotton.
The PS added that the Kenyan and Indian governments have invested over Sh5 billion in the revival and modernization of Rivertex, which is the biggest textile mill in the East and Central Africa region.
“Apparently, Rivertex is only operating at about 40 per cent capacity, mostly because of lack of raw materials, and that is why the government is boosting the idea of having a synthetic fibre factory in the country and increasing the acreage under cotton,” said Mukhwana.
Export Processing Zones (EPZ) Chairman Richard Cheruiyot said that currently there are about 40 companies in the EPZ zones which are in the textile and apparel industries. They are employing around 56, 000 people directly.
“We are in the process of negotiating with a Korean company which is going to set up the first synthetic fibre factory in Kenya at a cost of US$ 30 million. The company will also be doing dying and colouring, making it an nd-to-end chain. It is expected to break ground in January 2024,” said Cheruiyot.
He explained that the company is expected to employ about 3, 000 people initially, and progressively, the number is expected to rise to 10, 000.
India’s Deputy High Commissioner to Kenya, Rohit Vadhwana, said that the textile industry is the second largest employer in India, employing 45 million people directly and 60 million people indirectly, and the growth of the industry can create many jobs in Kenya.
India ITME Society Chairman Ketan Sanghvi said that Kenya has embarked on a journey of revitalising the textile industry, and they are proud to act as a catalyst between the various stakeholders between the two countries.
“We see some very good potential for Kenya to benefit from the technology, automation, and other services being exhibited by Indian entrepreneurs,” said Sanghvi.
Kenya Export Promotion and Branding Agency (KEPROBA) Chairman Jas Bedi said that Kenya is the largest exporter of apparel to the USA under the AGOA, where last year Kenya exported textile products worth US$ 544 million.
“Our target by 2025 is to export textiles worth US$.2 billion and by 2030 to take the figures to US$.5 billion. If we hit our target for 2025, we will have created 200, 000 jobs, and by 2030, we will have 500, 000 direct jobs. If you put the multiplier effect on the number of families which one job supports, then we will be supporting 2.5 million people,” said Bedi.
By Joseph Ng’ang’a