Cotton traceability in Egypt and Sub-Saharan Africa came under scrutiny on the sidelines of the ongoing Cop27 in Sharm el Sheikh, Egypt.
A joint session between the International Islamic Trade Finance Corporation (ITFC) and the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (Unido) highlighted the strategies for boosting the ability of value stream participants to fully realise the potential of the climate-resilient textile and cotton sector. This, while increasing competitiveness and integration in regional and global value chains.
Egyptian cotton is mostly renowned for its outstanding physical fibre qualities, exceptional aesthetic performance, and unmatched durability. However, in the Egyptian cotton-textile value chain, cotton is both a contributor and a victim of climate change.
In response to these challenges, the Unido multistakeholder project, “The Egyptian cotton project”, began supporting Egyptian farmers in June 2020 to execute a methodical strategy for sustainable cotton growing as advocated by the Better Cotton Initiative.
On the regional level, evidence shows that the main issue of the African cotton and textile industry remains the low level of local processing of the fibre and the valuation of by-products.
Despite some issues in the cotton and textile sector, the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) which came into force in January 2021, offers a large market of more than 1.3 billion consumers, as well as several business opportunities. This large market should further stimulate industrialization and investment opportunities in the cotton value chain.
With unique areas of expertise, panellists discussed the policies, practices, and processes that can push pledges into action to enhance the traceability and transparency of the Sub-Saharan African and Egyptian cotton-textile value chain.
These pledges will allow for a just transition towards a low-carbon, resource-efficient, and more circular economy.
During his keynote address, Eng. Hani Salem Sonbol, chief executive of the ITFC, said, “The African cotton sector has been a key focus of ITFC, particularly in all major producing countries, including Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, and Mali with $1.4 billion in financing the cotton sector.
“Since its inception, ITFC has provided approximately $7 billion in financing to the food and agriculture sectors. Farmers are one concrete example of how our impact manifests. ITFC also collaborates with Unido through the Better Cotton Initiative because of our long-standing involvement in the African cotton sector. Together, we assist brands and retailers in achieving more consistent quality and sourcing their products from Egyptian cotton producers who adhere to national and regulatory agricultural practices.”
Krishnan Ramamurthi, the moderator of the session stated that “without sound traceability, measuring progress to ESG Goals and commitments is limited. Furthermore, commodity supply and value chain traceability is a two-step process, wherein both digital chains of custody and cutting-edge “fingerprinting” of the origin for verification are required components.”
Aymen Kasem, division manager: trade development of ITFC, added that “traceability provides the ways and means to overcome non-tariff-related barriers, thereby enhancing trade. ITFC supports aggrotech solutions that enable sustainable farming – especially in the least developed countries.”
Sara Berlese, program officer, Unido regional office in Egypt said, “Traceability is a powerful enabler for more sustainable, transparent, and inclusive cotton-textile value chains in Africa. Unido is keen to further support multistakeholder initiatives, focusing on skills development and innovative digital solutions to foster new opportunities for the African cotton textile industry.”
Dalia Tadros, director of operations: Industrial Development Group, said: “The Egyptian Cotton Reform Project covers the entire supply chain from farming to complete processing; aims at availing traceable and sustainable inputs for private finished goods producers; thus, creating sustainable value added for the crop that supports the livelihoods of many families and women across the African Continent.”
Unido and ITFC are committed to continuing to support practical and scalable solutions to improve the performance and competitiveness of the Egyptian cotton-textile value chain –one of the country’s most iconic industrial productions – while preserving its environmental and social sustainability and inclusivity for future generations.