UNIDO, WTO and partners ITC, Afreximbank, along with financial institutions Africa Finance Corporation (AFC) and International Islamic Trade Finance Corporation (ITFC) signed a Joint Declaration for the $12bn West Africa cotton investment during the WTO’s 9th Global Review of Aid for Trade in Geneva.

The initiative is part of the Partenariat pour le Coton and focuses on the Cotton Four countries Benin, Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali and Côte d’Ivoire.

The key goals of the initiative include improving access to energy, enhancing skills, creating sustainable jobs, particularly for women and youth and supporting infrastructure projects to develop the cotton-to-textile/apparel value chain in the region. The involvement of financial institutions is expected to play a crucial role in unlocking investment opportunities and facilitating trade.

WTO director general Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala described the initiative as a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity” for West Africa’s cotton and textile industry. She added: “I am happy with Gerd Müller of UNIDO and ITC and others as we are working to try and help them [Cotton Four] develop the cotton value chain in the countries.”

UNIDO director general Gerd Müller said: “Our shared goal is fair and sustainable local cotton processing to create decent jobs and economic growth in the region. What we need is to also work towards establishing a ‘blue button’ seal to promote sustainable and fairly produced textiles around the world. We must fundamentally rethink how our economies and our global supply chains work and create a fairer globalisation that benefits all.”

The event featured a high-level panel discussion with representatives from the private sector, development finance institutions, and development partners. Participants included Chad’s minister of trade and industry Guibolo Fanga Mathieu, president of Africa Finance Corporation (AFC) Samaila Zubairu as well as a presentation on the ‘Baseline Study of Cotton-to Textile/Apparel Value Chain Development in the C4 and Côte d’Ivoire’ by Gherzi Textil Organisation Switzerland CEO Navdeep Sodhi.

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