The story of cotton around the world screams multiple elements of society. From adorning the royalty in ancient Israel to becoming the material embodiment of freedom from colonialism in modern India, the fabric has taken up different shapes in different countries at different timelines. In Africa, cotton is fast becoming a symbol of self-determination, sustainability, and a pathway to its breakthrough in the textile industry.
Cotton plays a crucial role in the African economy, particularly in the sub-Saharan region. It is a primary export crop as well as a fibre extensively used in the domestic textile industry, boosting the income of smallholder farmers and supporting the circular economy. According to statistics, Africa contributes 8 percent to global cotton production, thanks to the rich cotton basins of the Western African region. Production in Benin and Togo on average stands at approximately 362K MT of lint cotton every year. In the past, these countries have exported nearly 99 percent of their cotton production to Asian countries such as China, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Vietnam etc.
The case for Cotton in Africa Similar to other industrial sectors and crops, cotton production has been charged with extreme environmental impacts. The gap in logistics furthered the African dilemma by adding to the total carbon footprint of production activity. An outright call for organic and sustainably sourced and produced cotton boggled the policymakers, with the classic black-and-white trade-off between growth and environment. Growing competition from the western countries that were able to cut costs because of large-scale subsidy programs has added to the woes. Finally, a switch from exporting raw cotton to exporting cotton fabric is a journey in itself, demanding cutting-edge infrastructure, considerable human resources, and unparalleled integration services.
GLO-DJIGBÉ Industrial Zone (GDIZ): becoming the Baobab for Cotton In Africa, the Baobab tree is known as the ‘tree of life, because of its ability to cater to multiple needs of plants, humans, and animals alike. The Glo-Djigbé Industrial Zone (GDIZ) in Benin functions similarly for cotton production in the region, allaying barriers and supporting the development through various integrated services. With a focus on both sustainability and boosting trade, the zone has been developed with a total investment of $50 million in phase 1, with plans to inject another $50 million in phase 2. The project is an infrastructure marvel built with a partnership between the Government of Benin and ARISE IIP, portraying the production capacity of modern-day Africa.
How GDIZ Supports Cotton Production in Benin
Spread across an area of 1,640 hectares, the GDIZ in Benin is a world-class industrial ecosystem facilitating the competitive manufacturing of cotton by transforming local raw cotton into textiles. Since the operations began in 2020, the zone has played a pivotal role in transforming the face of cotton production in the region. Textile Training Centers are assisting capacity building in the region by up skilling local communities based on textile industry demands and trends. To date, the training centers located in the zone have already inducted 800 trainees making finished garments from raw cotton fabrics. GDIZ has also incorporated multiple mechanisms to expand cotton exports in Benin, which include:
- Value-addition at source to ensure a high minimum price for cotton producers
- Integrated logistics services to reduce cost
- Increased market access for small manufacturers because of existing trade agreements between ARISE IIP and multiple international trade organizations
- Access to skilled manpower trained in-house through Garment Training Centers in the zone
- Sustainable process via constant monitoring of targets and strict eco-friendly code of conduct, and
- Recycling and reusing of any residue using waste recycling plants in the zone.
The zone is projected to create 15,000 jobs in phase 1 only, along with increasing Benin’s export.
In terms of facilities specially designed for garment and textile production, the zone has installed factory sheds that are available for rent for garment manufacturers. The fiber-to-finished product journey is monitored using the Fib retrace mechanism, a science-backed technology to track and ensure traceability.
Leading Sustainability goals with scientifically backed solutions.
The GDIZ in Benin has developed infrastructure solutions that are resilient and pro-climate. These solutions are helping tackle both long-term and immediate concerns surrounding cotton production.
- 100 percent sustainably sourced cotton under the Cotton Made in Africa (CMiA) initiative
- Partnership with CO2logic for assessing product life cycle and ways to reduce the carbon footprint of cotton production
- Controlled use of chemicals to limit discharge
- Specialized units are being developed in the zone to increase the recycling capacity
- 95 percent of water is reused through a water treatment facility
- Solar energy generation on site
The zone is also boosting efforts to meet the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), way before the deadline of 2023. The zone has deployed an electrically operated vehicle fleet to reduce energy consumption during transportation. With its vision, mission, and objective having a firm ground on rationality and practicality, the GDIZ is well on its course to boost textile and apparel exports from the West African region.