Mr. Sodhi Navdeep is UNIDO Consultant on textile and international trade. He spoke to Ifeyinwa Obi on the emerging trends in counterfeiting and smuggling in the textile industry and the negative effect it has on the nation’s economy. He also said between 1965 and 2008, more than 36 textile industries have closed down, leaving the workers jobless. Excerpts

How is the textile business doing in Nigeria?

Not too bad but not what it should be. The textile business in Nigeria would have been better if the counterfeiting could be curtailed. The situation in the Nigerian textile industry is alarming. Unless urgent steps are taken by the government, a total collapse is imminent. The Nigerian Textile Industry used to be the largest employer of labour after the federal government. But in recent times employment has shrunk from 200,000 in 1985 to a meager 24,000 in 2008. Again the number of textile mills has declined from a peak of 175 in 1985 to just 25 at present. The industrial estates in Kaduna, Lagos and Sharada and Bompai in Kano which thrived on textile manufacturing activity have turned into ghost towns as mills after mills shut down in the last five years. The remaining industry operates at skeletal capacity due to several constraints, and what this means is that Nigeria is fast on the path of de-industrialisation.

Apart from job loss, what more have we lost?

We have lost a lot. The Nigerian textile industry represents a lot. It is a strategic non-oil industry for Nigeria. Almost all countries have as their first industrial activity and most developing economies show high degree of self-sufficiency for textiles and garments. This is the industry that uses maximum indigenous raw materials – cotton and it employed 200,000 workers in 1985 now reduced to 24,000 workers and a million indirect people, I mean the cotton growers and labour. Don’t forget that it is the second largest textile industry in Africa after Egypt. The present installed textile manufacturing capacity in Nigeria represents $2 billion investment on a placement basis. There is a huge potential to create thousand of jobs in the garment sector, if the textile industry is allowed to survive.

We have lost a lot. A total number of textile mills declined from 175 to 25 between 1985 and 2008. For instance, in 1985 there were 175 mills in Nigeria and in 2002, it was reduced to 50. In 2006 it dropped to 32 and 2008 we have just 25 and the existing ones are just operating at skeletal capacity.

Just as the industries were going, people keep losing their jobs, from 200,000 workers to 24,000 workers. What we lost did not end there; 1.2 million house holds in West and Central Africa depend on cotton cultivation for their livelihood. However, cotton production has been declining. In the last decade, world cotton production increased from 20 million to 27 million tons, but in Africa it dropped from 1.8 million to 1.5 million tons. Less than 10 per cent of West Africa’s cotton gets value added.

How can one identify a counterfeited textile material?

Most times if you are not very careful, it would be a bit difficult for you to identify. If you look carefully at the trade mark, the counterfeited textile from China and other places, have their counterfeit trade marks which are painted on the cloth selvedge. Again, they have fake country of origin printed on the textile “made in Nigeria” which is painted on the cloth and labels to falsify country of origin declaration. Also fake labels come printed with the statutory quality certificate markings.

How do you think is the best way to eliminate counterfeiting?

The countries involved in this counterfeiting should be notified that it is a grave offence to violate intellectual property right (IPR) of Nigeria textile manufacturers. These counterfeiters specifically target popular Nigerian textile companies and counterfeit their trade marks on the material they produced and destined them for Nigerian market. So I think there is urgent need to draw the attention of the authorities of the countries involved on the serious damage caused by their exporters to Nigerian economy.

The federal government of Nigeria should make an official complaint to the Chinese authorities about the trade malpractice by Chinese companies which are destroying Nigerian economy. ECOWAS Commission should also urge lodge a complaint as these goods are circulated in West Africa through land borders.


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