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Sub-Saharan African Textile and Apparel Inputs: Potential for Competitive Production

Investigation No. 332-502
USITC Publication 4078


Sub-Saharan African (SSA) countries have the greatest potential to be competitive in the production of cotton yarn, fabric, and other textile and apparel inputs, but they face numerous challenges, according to the U.S. International Trade Commission (USITC) in its latest general factfinding investigation.

A provision included in 2008 legislation extending the Andean Trade Preference Act required the Commission to conduct a review to identify yarns, fabrics, and other textile and apparel inputs that can be produced competitively in beneficiary sub-Saharan African countries through new or increased investment or other measures.

The ITC found that:

  • Cotton yarn, cotton knit fabric, denim fabric, and to a lesser extent, cotton woven shirting fabric, appear to the have the most potential for competitive production in SSA countries. Cotton is the primary fiber currently used in the production of yarn and fabric in the SSA countries, and it is grown in large quantities in the region.

  • SSA countries also have the potential to competitively produce certain niche textile items including: organic cotton yarn and knit fabric used for T-shirts; certain wool woven fabrics; hand-loomed fabric of cotton and silk; African print fabric; and yarn and knit fabric made of speciality manmade fibers, such as modal.

  • The SSA countries produce some products that appear best-suited for local or regional markets, including woven fabric for uniforms, blankets, bedsheets, and towels; acrylic yarn; cotton fabric for cotton bale wrap and cotton picking bags; and knit fabric for mosquito nets.

  • SSA production of textile and apparel inputs has declined recently in the face of increased competition from Asian producers. New or increased investment or other measures could assist the industry in maintaining or expanding current production and export levels of these inputs, as well as increase the potential for production of some new products.

  • SSA countries face numerous and substantial challenges in their production of yarn, fabric, and other textile and apparel inputs. As a whole, SSA countries have an insufficient apparel base through which to develop and sustain upstream production in yarn, fabric, and other inputs. SSA countries also face severe challenges with their infrastructure that raise the cost of existing production and also deter significant new investment in the capital-intensive textile industry.

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