Samuel K. Gayi, Head Special Unit on Commodities (SUC) UNCTAD said it all started in Geneva in December 2008 as an UNCTAD Secretary-General’s multi-stakeholder forum to discuss the problems afflicting Africa’s cotton sector. It later metamorphosed into a Pan-African cotton meeting in Cotonou in 2011, supported by the Secretariat of the ACP Group of countries, the European Union/Cos coton, Common Fund for Commodities, and the Centre for the Development of Enterprise.
More than 150 stakeholders, representing the entire cotton value chain, from farm to factory, participated in this meeting. Increasing productivity, improving marketing and enhancing value addition emerged as the three main interrelated objectives of a 10-year Road Map for the African cotton sector. The Pan African Cotton Road Map (PACRM) was to be derived from the outcome of deliberations in Cotonou; but also building on the existing national and regional strategies for the cotton sector, and taking into account the EU-Africa Partnership on Cotton. The Road Map was intended to increase consistency between the different initiatives and give a general direction to the development of the African cotton sector.
The process of enunciating the PACRM has itself been a “Road” on which Africa has been travelling as “one” from Cotonou to Nairobi, Bamako to Brussels, and then recently, to Accra. On this road, the Western, Eastern, Central and Southern parts of the continent have embraced each other and linguistic barriers have “dissolved” as the sub-regions dialogue with each other for one common purpose – the sustainable development of the cotton sector with a view to raising incomes of all value chain participants and reducing poverty.
The Cotonou meeting won over many stakeholders, including the African Cotton & Textile Industries Federation (ACTIF), who have since then given unflinching support to this pan-African cause. The Cotton Textile and Apparel Stakeholders Forum, organized by ACTIF on 2-3 August 2012 in Accra within the context of regional cooperation with West Africa, and with the support of the African Trade Policy Centre (ATPC) of the UN Economic Commission for Africa, is just the latest manifestation of ACTIF’s catalytic role in driving this whole process forward.