The textile industry in Mozambique is dependent on cotton production. The country’s fertile soil, ideal weather and easily accessible ports are favourable to producing cotton.
In the 1900s, Portugal designated Mozambique as its centre of overseas cotton production. The southern African country was a key player in the success of Portugal’s textile economy at the time.
In the 1980s, the Mozambique government’s confidence in the country’s capability as a cotton and textile producer was such that they included a massive textile factory in the central town of Mocuba as a component of the ten-year “Prospective Indicative Plan.” However, failure to invest and modernise the cotton industry, political instability, and competition from imports have slowed the growth of the country’s textile and clothing industries.
CONTEMPORARY TEXTILE INDUSTRIES
Even though production levels have dipped significantly from the 90s, the country’s cotton yield is gradually increasing. In 2020, cotton yield rose to 22,719 tonnes after it plummeted to 10,000 tonnes in 2017. According to a 2010 article by Mozambican researchers, cotton manufacturing is a crucial income source for around 300,000 rural households, generating about 20,000 jobs and contributing nearly 40 million USD in annual agriculture exports annually.
Abandoned textile industries are still the subject of interest from foreign investors. The resurgence of Moztex, formerly known as Texlom — one of Mozambique’s prominent textile factories — is a notable feat. After a prolonged period of inactivity, the factory resumed operations in 2009, buoyed by a substantial investment of around $2.5 million from its new owners, the Aga Khan Foundation. This capital infusion signals a promising new chapter for this once-dormant manufacturing powerhouse. Moztex currently has 500 employees and is a leading manufacturer of ready-to-wear garments and primarily exports its products to South Africa.
Another such factory is Riopele Textile factory, which stopped operations in 2004. Its assets have since been acquired by the Mozambique Cotton Manufacturers (MCM) — a group of Mozambican and Portuguese companies. The Riopele project is expected to employ around 750 people, potentially increasing to 7,000 workers as the entire production chain — from cotton cultivation to clothing manufacturing — becomes fully operational.
Investors are currently courting the textile firm, TextAfrica. Companies from South Africa, India, China, and Japan have visited the factory, which at its peak, employed 3,300 workers. But it is not only the country’s textile factories that have gotten the attention of the world. The 2022 Mozambique Fashion Week drew 15 international brands from Italy, Japan, South Africa and Angola for the one-week event. Altaroma led the Italian showcase, and among the designers was Francesca Corelli, who won the 32nd edition of the National Competition, Ricerca Moda Innovazione.
Although the country’s textile industry is nowhere near its glorious past, it has a huge potential for success, given that it has the ideal environment for the sector to thrive.
In 2019, former Mozambique’s prime minister, Carlos Agostinho do Rosario, announced the Soalpo Special Economic Zone. According to him, the goal is to create opportunities for national and foreign investments, which will subsequently allow business firms to establish themselves and generate job opportunities for residents, especially the youth, some of whom are descendants of former company employees.
To encourage entrepreneurs interested in the project, Rosario stated that any industrial, commercial, or other ventures in the future Soalpo Special Economic Zone would be exempt from paying taxes and customs duties on equipment imports. The Special Economic Zone is located in the city of Chimoio, which also houses the popular TextAfrica textile factory.
TextAfrica was established in the 1940s. It is regarded as Mozambique’s first textile factory. Throughout the years, the factory has been the subject of multiple declarations of intent. The Mozambican authorities have explored various options to generate revenue from the factory’s infrastructure and have acknowledged the potential of altering its operations to increase its practical value. The government has already helped the industry offset its $1 million bank loan.
At the continental level, Mozambique is set to benefit from trading under The African Continental Free Trade Area (AFCTA). Trading under the AFCTA officially began in January 2021, and data from the UNCTAD shows that intra-African exports made up only 16% of exports as of 2017 compared with 68.1% in Europe. Intra-African trade comprised 15% of cotton and 10% of apparel exports during this same period. Building on its African market has the potential to boost Mozambique’s real income by 2%, according to an assessment by World Bank.
The southern African country has also benefited from its affiliation with the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC), European Union’s Everything But Arms Agreement (EBA) and African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA). As a beneficiary of the SADC trade agreement, Mozambique enjoys tariff-free access to South Africa, Africa’s wealthiest market, for qualified apparel exports. The country’s thriving trade relationship with South Africa holds much potential for its textile market.
With favourable trade partnerships, natural advantages and government support, opportunities abound for Mozambique’s textile industry to compete in the international market.
Like any other emerging industry, the textile sector faces challenges limiting its growth. The most prominent is the lack of adequate infrastructure and financing, especially for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), which comprise a significant portion of the industry. These challenges lead to high production costs and reduced productivity.
Competition from importers of cheap and second-hand foreign clothing poses a challenge for any investor looking to break into Mozambique’s domestic textile market. This is because more than half of Mozambicans are living in extreme poverty.
Another major challenge is the decline in cotton production due to the closure of major factories. Since 2013, the country”s cotton yield has never exceeded 33,000 tonnes, a far cry from the 62,000 tonnes recorded consecutively in 2008 and 2009. The closure of Textáfrica caused a reduction in cotton cultivation in its location in Chimoio, the capital of the central province of Manica, Mozambique.
Attempting to develop the industry exclusively for domestic markets is unlikely to succeed at present.
To achieve remarkable success, prospective investors seeking to enter Mozambique’s textile market must maximise the sector’s natural advantages and international competitive strengths. The focus should be on meeting the demands of global markets rather than just the preferences of the government, suppliers, or the public. Investment strategies should align with Mozambique’s development objectives and market requirements, ensuring practical and sustainable outcomes.
The right investment will put the textile market on its way to becoming, once again, an important player in the global textile market.
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