Spinning cotton into gold: Zambia scales up handloom textiles

The Handloom Textiles Association of Zambia (HATTAZ) was established to promote local production of artisan textiles. This initiative, led by the Cotton Association of Zambia with support from the International Trade Centre (ITC), has already left a positive imprint in villages across the country. It enables smallholder cotton farmers in Zambia to shift away from the export commodity narrative by adding value to their cotton – transforming it into yarn to produce hand-woven items. It also fosters a community of local farmers, spinners and weavers who have joined forces to collectively improve their livelihoods and uplift their communities.

ITC is working with HATTAZ to train women groups across Zambia’s provinces in weaving, business knowledge and market access in the framework of the ‘ACP Business-Friendly’ programme jointly funded by the EU and the OACPS. 

So far, 25 farmers have been trained on hand yarn spinning and 15 on advanced weaving, with the goal of passing on this knowledge to their respective communities to scale up impact. Weaving and spinning packages that include handloom machines, reeds, spinning wheels and yarn have also been allocated to each farmer group. Members of the initiative have been engaged to regularly participate in trade shows, international fairs and local district shows to improve their visibility and market access.

In July, HATTAZ attended the Zambia Agricultural and Commercial Show, a leading Southern African regional meeting place for investors and business actors seeking new opportunities and potential. This was a valuable opportunity for the Handloom Textiles collective to exhibit its locally-made artisan products – beautiful, unique, and with a social impact to boot. The event was a success at every level –networking with new buyers and investors, increasing national visibility and capturing ideas and inspiration for market development.

Francisca Chisuta is a weaver from the Mazabuka district in Zambia’s Southern province. For her, the event was both exciting and motivating: “I’m so proud to represent my group at a national level” she said. “I’m also taking away some important lessons I plan to share with them. For example, the importance of a good display to attract customers, and new ideas on pattern and colour combinations I can’t wait to try out!”

Highlights of the event included a visit to the stand by the President of the Republic of Zambia himself, Mr. Hakainde Hichilema. Members of HATTAZ explained to him the challenges they are facing in the cotton sector, and the importance of investing in value addition in-country to move forward.

Another notable visit was that of Hon Rodney Sikumba MP, Minister of Tourism of Zambia, who encouraged HATTAZ to get organized and apply for government funding. Linking fashion, the hotel industry and tourism with emphasis on women empowerment is high on their agenda, he shared in his speech.

Connecting with the Technical Education, Vocational Education and Entrepreneurship Training Authority (TEVETA) was also a networking milestone. The training authority expressed interest in working with HATTAZ and funding future training – another huge opportunity for all women weaver groups involved.

Apart from enabling trade fair participation, ITC is also working closely with HATTAZ on improving market access through website development and database expansion, to help farmers market their products as well as sell online using the platform. The groups that are already producing high-quality textiles have been successfully linked to fashion designers through this programme.

Providing farmers with the opportunity to add value to their cotton is building resilience to price and weather shocks, as farmers diversify risk and income by selling cotton-based woven products. These additional earnings help support their families and businesses year-long.  

Moving forward, HATTAZ plans to help improve its members’ exhibition, marketing, and negotiation skills with continued support from ITC and the ACP Business-friendly programme.


Angola: Enabling Effective Promotion, Competition and Investment Policy 

In March 2022, the Angola ACP Business Friendly project team conducted a series of workshops on competition policy, market studies and anticompetitive practice investigation for the staff of the newly formed Angolan Competition Regulatory Authority (ARC). ARC requested these workshops to support the development of its internal procedures, as well as guidelines for policy implementation and compliance by market players. As part of the ongoing technical assistance to ARC, the team will use the feedback and discussions from the workshops to inform the final versions of the guidelines on investigation of anticompetitive practices and competition market assessments and assist in piloting the application market assessment guidance.

The team visited Luanda from May 9-13 to continue their support to Angola’s Private Investment and Export Promotion Agency (AIPEX) to advance the implementation of the Aftercare Program (Programa de Apoio ao Investidor) and discuss other program support. During this visit, the team provided a detailed assessment of the structure, organizational arrangements, and operational components of the Department of Research Investor Support and International Business (DEAINI) and formulated recommendations to enhance the implementation of the AIPEX Aftercare Program. The team also organized a workshop to present on the Systematic Investment Retention Mechanism (SIRM). The discussions and work sessions with the various AIPEX teams allowed for the identification of next steps, particularly in the agency’s strategic focus, investor relationship manager focal points, attention to companies with expansion projects, and procedure standardization. Additionally, the team also held a workshop on good practices in relation to one-stop shops for investors to assist with the design of the AIPEX single window.

Next generation Special Economic Zones to accelerate economic diversification and industrialization in Central Africa

The United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), in collaboration with the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) and the ACP Business-friendly programme funded by the European Union and the Organisation of African, Caribbean and Pacific States (OACPS), organised on Tuesday, June 28, 2022 a webinar on the challenges and opportunities of new generation special economic zones (SEZs) for economic diversification and industrialization in Central Africa.

This webinar, in which more than a hundred participants took part, aimed to initiate a dialogue with the various stakeholders in the sub-region on the importance of special economic zones as an accelerator of economic diversification and industrialization in Central Africa in a context of industrial revolution 4.0 and the advent of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCTA). High-level panelists intervened through presentations followed by discussions.

According to Raymond Tavares, UNIDO Representative for Central Africa, “The development and promotion of new generation SEZs is part of a process aimed at attracting foreign investors to developing countries. These should be aligned with the requirements of sustainability and respect for the environment that underpin the 2030 agenda and can be hotbeds of innovation that will drive change in the rest of the industry”.

Central Africa has abundant natural resources that need to be further processed locally, thus enabling the sub-region to accelerate its process of industrialization and diversification. And the development of new generation SEZs is one of the means to achieve this objective,” said Jean Luc Mastaki, Acting Director of the ECA Subregional Office for Central Africa.

The SEZs do not claim to be a panacea, they are nevertheless a formidable tool for the well-being of our populations, for a mutually beneficial, integrated development of our countries and the continent, for opening up new opportunities and for seeking progress,” said Abdoulaye Maïga, Member of the Board of Directors of the Organization of African Economic Zones. He added that SEZs, in addition to being a tool to achieve development objectives, could also serve as an instrument of peace and security, citing the examples of Mali and Burkina Faso.

François Serres, international lawyer and specialist in partnership rights, recalled that the establishment of a SEZ must necessarily align with the industrial policy of a country to avoid creating a windfall effect for investors and operators in quest for opportunities and advantages.

Nilgün Tas, Deputy Director of the Department of Environment at UNIDO emphasized the environmental dimension in the operationalization of SEZs. She presented the benefits of industrial eco-parks that address interrelated aspects, such as the transition to the circular economy, resource-efficient production and industrial symbiosis.

We must build our SEZs from our realities, from things that exist and not come from elsewhere,” said Philémon Roger Essono Obam, Engineer specializing in the design and construction of food processing plants.

This webinar, which will be followed by other similar meetings, is part of the preparatory activities for the ECA Central Africa Committee of Experts and a prelude to UNIDO’s African Industrialization Day which is recognized and celebrated on November 20.