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The United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO) and the World Trade Organisation (WTO) have joined forces to devise a strategy aimed at raising $12 billion for sustainable cotton production in Africa. 

This initiative follows the WTO’s 9th Global analysis of Aid for Trade, which focuses on the theme Cotton-to-Clothing: Charting Pathways to Create Sustainable Jobs for Women and Youth in West and Central Africa under the Partenariat pour le Coton initiative’s ongoing efforts to attract resources for the textile and cotton industries in the developing nations of West Africa, particularly the Cotton Four countries (Benin, Chad, Burkina Faso, Mali – known as “C4”) and Côte d’Ivoire.

An important moment in this initiative was the signing of a Joint Declaration, aimed at mobilising investment financing. This collaborative endeavour includes UNIDO, WTO, ITC, Afreximbank, and financial bodies such as the Africa Finance Corporation (AFC) and the International Islamic Trade Finance Corporation (ITFC), marking an important step towards fulfilling the investment needs outlined in the updated Cotton Roadmap Initiative.

UNIDO Director General Gerd Müller said, “Our combined aim is to encourage fair and sustainable local cotton processing to promote decent jobs and economic development in the region. UNIDO is devoted to leveraging our knowledge to enhance local value addition in the cotton sector and support the growth of a comprehensive and sustainable textile industry.”

WTO Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala added, “West Africa is on the brink of a historic opportunity in the cotton and textile sector. We are working closely with UNIDO, ITC, and other partners to assist the Cotton Four countries in expanding their cotton value chains.”

The proposal included a panel with representatives from the private sector, development finance institutions, and development partners. 

Moderated by WTO Deputy Director-General Paugam, the panel featured contributions from key stakeholders including UNIDO Director General Gerd Müller, Benin’s Minister of Trade and Industry Alimatou Shadiya Assouman, ITC Executive Director Pamela Coke-Hamilton, President of AFC Samaila Zubairu, CEO of the ITFC Hani Sonbol, and a presentation by CEO Navdeep Sodhi of Gherzi Textil Org Switzerland on the Baseline Study of Cotton-to-Textile/Apparel Value Chain Development in the C4 and Côte d’Ivoire.

The involvement of financial institutions is considered crucial to enhancing access to energy, infrastructure projects, skills development, trade facilitation, and unlocking investment opportunities essential for advancing the cotton-to-textile/apparel value chain in West and Central Africa.