Nigerian traditional textiles threatened by Chinese imports | Voice of America
JOS, NIGERIA – Nigeria has produced beautiful patterns of traditional fabrics, which have been handmade for centuries. But ancient art curators say modern manufacturing and cheap Chinese imports threaten this way of life.
Kano’s Kofar Mata Dye Mine is one of the latest manufacturers of hand-coloring textiles in Nigeria.
Over the years, the pit workers have become fewer and fewer due to reduced patronage.
Mamood Abubakar leans over the meter-deep dye pit in a continuous soaking process that produces rich indigo fabrics.
Abubakar has been doing this for the past 70 years to make a living and maintain the tradition, but as he ages he worries about the future of the business.
“This place has been around for over 500 years,” said Abubakar. “Arabs, whites and people from all over Africa come here because this business is not small. We are waiting for the young people to want to be part of it so that when we are gone, they will replace us, ”he says.
Not far from the Kofar Mata Dye mine is the Kantin Kwari Textile Market, the largest in Nigeria.
Ismaila Abdullahi, a designer in the market, says cheap Chinese manufacturing means it is not profitable to produce textiles locally.
“The progress we’ve made in this business is that we now have our own graphic designer, who draws the designs and sends them to China to produce the textiles and send them back to us,” he said.
Hamma Kwajaffa, the managing director of the Nigerian Textile Manufacturers Association, attributes the decline in locally made fabrics to Chinese imports, which he says are often smuggled into the country.
“They take our designs and go to China and bring it in to sell it for less. Five meters like that, they will sell it for 1,000 naira, while our factories cannot produce this product for less than 3,000 naira. Because these smugglers don’t have workers, they don’t pay taxes, they don’t add any value, so they can afford to sell it for less, ”he said.
The Central Bank of Nigeria said last month it had granted cotton farmers more than $ 300 million in loans in recent years to support the national textile industry, once Africa’s largest.
In 2017, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, replacing the President, ordered the government to prioritize products made in Nigeria when purchasing uniforms and shoes.
John Adaji, president of the Nigerian National Garment Textile and Garment Workers Union, said the policy needed to be broadened.
“South Africa had a textile policy and it just said, ‘Buy from South Africa, wear from South Africa.’ And they have a tax in effect that enforces that. So it’s the government. The government must be seen as a fertile ground for doing business, ”he said.
Craftsman Abubakar says the government should buy their handmade fabrics and export them to the world if they want these traditional Nigerian textiles to survive.