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Is the shirt on your back made in Africa?

BBC Africa HYS Team | 19:08 UK time, Tuesday, 27 April 2010

If you look in your wardrobe how many of your clothes are made in Africa?

All this week African cotton producers are in Kenya to discuss how they can promote the textiles industry on the continent.

Currently,world cotton prices are at record high but for the past five years Cotton production in Africa has been on the decline according to the African Cotton Association.



In Ghana, the government is throwing a lifeline to its textiles industry - renowned for its printed fabrics - to make it more competitive by considering subsidies to farmers and ensuring a regular and cheaper supply of water and electricity to factories.

Is Africa's cotton industry in danger of disappearing? Can Africans do more to save it? Do you consciously try to buy African clothes or are other producers doing it for less and getting your custom as a result? Send your views and don't forget to tell us where you're from.

If you would like to debate this topic LIVE on air on Tuesday 27 April at 1600 GMT, please send us a telephone number to africa@bbc.co.uk. You can also send an SMS message to +44 77 86 20 20 08


  • Comment number 1.

    Miriam Quansah:

    Yes, I have had some of my clothing that are made in Africa...But, don't know what specific country in the region...


  • Comment number 2.


    Can Africans do more to save it?

    Yes, Africans can save the textile industry in their countries if, they are willing to put the money, resources, buildings, required rules for protecting the environment and employees then the industry can be saved.....


  • Comment number 3.

    The cotton industry in Africa is definitely in danger of shrinking and even disappearing in the long run. Among the major threats to this industry are: Western subsidies for their own cotton industry (the case of the US policies on this topic is well-known), Chinese/Indian manufacturing imports and lack of subsidies in Africa. For example, Benin, Burkina Faso and Mali, Africa’s largest cotton producers would make more money out of selling cotton to the United States manufacturers than they currently get out of all the foreign aid received every year. What is even more frustrating to watch is the fact that the West African cotton is of top quality, and could be used throughout the United States by most companies that manufacture any cotton-based pieces of clothing. It would certainly be a win – win situation. Instead, because the US government has pledged allegiance to the Washington lobbyists instead of the regular people like you and me, some of the unproductive Southern American cotton producers are still in business, despite the fact that they would be unable to compete against the West African cotton should the natural laws of trade apply.
    The problem is not only on the consumer side, but also in the larger international context. African governments have yet to take a common stance in WTO and demand that the hypocritical Western mechanisms of preventing African cotton from reaching international markets are removed (subsidies, tariffs, quotas etc). When talking about the African cotton industry, we see most clearly what the limitations of both the African producers and the African statesmen are. To get a concrete example, why African cotton producers try to sell their cotton in Africa and beyond, an average cotton producer in the Southern part of the United States receives half a million dollars per annum for a 1-2 hectares of land, thus allowing them to sell their cotton at a smaller price than their African counterparts.

  • Comment number 4.

    Who was the first African to put on a clothes?

    Which African country was the first to manufacture clothes?

    Lets monitor the trend of events, enventually Africans will not need to import clothes with their vast land and rich mineral resources!

    Africans need only to "Wake up" and eliminate the bottle necks!

    "Yes we Can!"

  • Comment number 5.

    African textile industries are characterised with a lot of sharp practices which no sane person can afford to condone. Neverthless, I wear both African and foreign made materials. But that of foreign is on the higher side. By and large, how do you expect the industry to survive in an environment of total black out and dry pipes? It's not possible.

  • Comment number 6.

    African textile industry is characterised with a lot of inexplicable sharp practices. I wear both African and foreign clothes but foreign is on the higher side. By and large how do you expect the African textile industry to survive in the face total black out and dry pipes.

  • Comment number 7.

    African attire (Africano roupa)? while most of our leaders used western cloths, so it is possible to neglete local cotton farming and production. I respect some because they respect traditional attires. The economic,good policies and power crises play a vital role in destroying cotton business in our continent. Am Nigerian from northern part, i knew there were crises between Chinese fibres dealers and our domestic dealers on selling issue because Chinese goods is cheaper than the local and gains maximum profit than our local dealers at the end,one of the traditional ruler gave the Chinese 3 days out 7 days of the week as the only authorized days for them to sale their goods

  • Comment number 8.

    I would say half and half. My outer clothes are definitely made in Africa, usually some kind of African print or batik or tye-n-dye, But as for the rest, I will admit their origins are probably in the Far East!

  • Comment number 9.

    Wearing African made clothes gives us a sense of identity and reflects our African culture. Unfortunately, Most Africans choice of clothing is influenced and dictated nowadays by the western cultures .African youths in the west are fast adopting the hip hop type of clothing Baggy pants, XXXL T-shirts which they think make them look cool and hard.

  • Comment number 10.

    Yes, mine does, and wearing African fabrics gives me sense of distinction from non-African and it is most suited for the weather, African fabrics are made with so much attractive colours that cannot go unnotice.

  • Comment number 11.

    I have a lot of locally made clothings which is made from cotton.How many Africans wear the locally made clothes from the continent even not forgetting our leaders!I always give credit to our mothers or our women because everywhere they go they portray that they are truly Africans by wearing African print.Kudos to Nigerians because they never go out without their African wear with their head gear that is their women.If African cotten industry is disappearing,it is what we see that makes it so.If we as individuals are able to put things in place, I don't think it will ever disappear even if some conditions call for that!Our leaders should sit up!

  • Comment number 12.

    In addition to what others have mentioned, which I agree with, let me just add that one other thing that is killing the local textile industry in Africa is second-hand(used) clothing. I don't know if this is true of all of Africa, but it is certainly true of southern and eastern Africa. You can certainly buy everything that you want on the second-hand market. You can buy shoes, socks, underwear, outer wear... just about anything you want. That has seriously affected the local textile industry.

    And as far as the uniquely African cloth is concerned, well, Asian countries have started making African type cloth. The quality is certainly different, but it basically looks the same.

    It will take some serious political will on the part of our leadership to stand up against the west in order to save our local industry.

  • Comment number 13.

    It is very interesting made in Afr & made elsewhere is not the problem of Afr, the problem is affordable coast. Most of the raw materials in those productions are from Afr so I don’t care where it is made from. Only one thing I may be proud of is style I like my Afr styles very much. An Afr industry can not help it people to solve the problem of clothing, because it will be so coasty.

  • Comment number 14.

    Well for me truth be told I dont have much African cloths and thats because I strongly believe in wearing what i will be comfortable in and most traditional cloth are not in my opinion. I really like my shirts from 'Marks and Spencer and the like this are top of the line cloths and neatly tailored to the highest standard.

  • Comment number 15.

    Unfortunately, 95% of my clothings are western made. Only 5% of them are made locally (Africa). Of course the Country Cloth made in Africa has been one of the most commonly use. There is also Gara clothings that are made in Africa. These industries and more would have created a lot of impact on the demand for western industries,if these African industries are capacitated. But with the fast crowing technology, I believe I will soon bring down the percentage of using western clothing to about 50%. Let see what the futture holds.
    Abdul Salam Tarawalie, Freetown, Sierra Leone

  • Comment number 16.

    Fortunately, there is no shirt on my back. So my back is undoubtedly made in Africa!

  • Comment number 17.

    I have got a lot of African clothes. I have a gown ("boubou")which was made in Guinea-Conakry. I also have several shirts made in Liberia. They are beautiful and I love wearing them. The only problem I have in using them is the situattion of the environment in which I live. It is most of the times cold. Anyway during summer, I do enjoy my African clothes.

  • Comment number 18.

    There are is a multitude of reasons why Local Cotton production is on the decline and YES there is a lot ALL of us, including all Africans, can do to reverse this trend. As Designer for textiles & womenswear I build solutions for this everyday. We can support by building sustainable supply chains giving local producers backbone to become exporters. We can support local producers by creating stunning design for African inspired product that sells on Western Shores. We can build the demand for these products. African Clothing production is far more versatile than its traditional attire as we know it and can also mean commercial high street products that sit in anybodies wardrobe!

    Here at Choolips we have come up with a concept that is making a significant difference to the sustainability of African Cotton products and it is a great example of how it can work! Our Golden Coast collection revamps the ancient tradition of Ghanaian Batik, creating textiles & dresses simply on trend, playful & pretty. Printed on 100% Ghanaian Cotton our range of dresses is fairly-traded and our distribution is online but also via collaborative brands & major retailers in the UK. This way we sustain all the way from crop to cradle.

    It is ONE solution that can be multiplied. And that is what we need multiplication of simple solutions to make sure Cotton is sustained and stays on TREND!

  • Comment number 19.

    My choice of shirts depends on my financial situation at the time. I buy expensive shirts when things are good with me and I go for "okrika" or second-hand dresses when I am down on cash. What I know is that good or down, I have never seen an African made shirt among these two groups. It is sad that many African countries produce cotton but don't end up using it to develop local textile industries that manufacture finished products such as shirts and trousers. But how can they when they are priced out of the market by subsidies by first world governments, which acquire their cotton at giveaway prices and sell the finished products to us at cut-throat prices?

  • Comment number 20.

    Very concerned to note Post#12 @ 3:22pm on 28th April '50pin'. WHY?

    Part of this post describes 'used' clothing being sold and affecting local textile industry?

    In many European countries, charities distribute bags to households to donate good clean clothing and nearly new shoes to raise funds for charitable efforts in Africa.

    Perhaps my family's concerns are unfounded? However, many people in Europe who donate the above would be concerned if this affected traditional industry and jobs in Africa. Does this need investigation and/or closer inspection?

    Any thoughts on this?

  • Comment number 21.

    I have a pair of trousers' cotton made in Africa very good quality, but most cloths in the U.K are from China. The main import in the U.K.is Art-work from Charity shops I would buy many more goods from Africa, The kenya tea is very good, but you can only buy goods from super markets, most of the time and they have deals with other countries


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