Promoting Exports of Ugandan Specialty Textiles for Inclusive Growth


International Development Research Centre (IDRC) and Trade Facilitation Office (TFO), under the aegis of the Ministry of Global Affairs in Canada, are conducting a multi-country study on the small and medium scale specialty textiles industry in selected Least Developed Countries (LDCs). These countries include Bangladesh, Cambodia, Ethiopia, Haiti, Lesotho, Madagascar, and Uganda. The goal of the study is to develop a market entry strategy into Canada for specialty textiles from the selected countries. A specialty textile is one that bears cultural and/or historic meaning for the people of the country that use it.

This is an actionable research project that will not only provide useful insight for policy action into the sector, but also open up business opportunities for the various producers and designers. Overall, the market entry study will inform an audience of practitioners and policy analysts about the most updated information from the selected economic sector (specialty textiles and fabrics) and about the strategic relevance of the sector, will provide a database of contacts of entrepreneurs in the sector, will conduct structured interviews with entrepreneurs and experts, and will propose practical solutions to overcome barriers to trade with Canada and with the rest of the world. Specifically, the business aspect will be conducted in three phases that will focus on traction and sustainability of the business relationships:

  • Identification of the exporters, product assessment and market testing
  • Compilation of buyer feedback on product development and/or design
  • Build market linkages with identified SME importers and distributors in Canada

Activities in Uganda

In Uganda, Maria Nagawa, a Research Associate at Economic Policy Research Centre and Lecturer at Makerere University Business School, is leading the study. Bark cloth and kitenge were identified as the representative Ugandan specialty textiles. The Uganda-based activities were carried out as follows:
  • Identification and validation of 36 SMEs and associations (producers and designers) involved in the specialty textiles sector.
  • Selection of 9 “export ready” SMEs.
  • Field visit from TFO–Canada representative and further validation of the export ready SMEs.
  • Focus group discussions with 40 SMEs in the specialty textiles industry at Uganda Small Scale Industries Association in the presence of the TFO representative.
  • Key stakeholder consultations with various ministries and associations (ongoing).
The final phase of the Uganda-based activities was the training workshop, on an export strategy to Canada, held on 31 July 2016 in Kampala.
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