Better Cotton, in collaboration with African Export-Import Bank, joins WTO and FIFA efforts to scale more sustainable cotton production in Africa

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  • Better Cotton will conduct sustainability mapping and assessments in Mali and Côte d’Ivoire to better understand smallholder cotton farmer operations and needs.
  • The project will complement an existing partnership between WTO and FIFA which focuses on developing raw material production and processing in key countries in West and Central Africa.
  • Better Cotton has programmes across Africa in Egypt, Mali, Mozambique and Côte d’Ivoire.

Better Cotton, the world’s largest cotton sustainability initiative, is to conduct sustainability mapping and assessments in West and Central Africa to enhance its understanding of the needs of smallholder farmers in the region and identify context-specific interventions.

Funded by the African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank), these assessments will inform ways in which targeted support can aid the production of more sustainable and regenerative cotton across Better Cotton’s programmes in Mali and Côte d’Ivoire – which engage a combined 200,000 farmers and farm workers.

This collaboration between Better Cotton and Afreximbank is part of wider efforts on the continent, led by the World Trade Organization (WTO) and football governing body FIFA, which aim to support the development of the cotton-to-textile value chain in West and Central Africa and improve economic returns for the sector.

In 2022, the WTO and FIFA formalised a partnership to enhance the participation of Burkina Faso, Benin, Chad and Mali – known as the Cotton Four (C4) – as well as neighbouring countries like Côte d’Ivoire, within apparel value chains.

In February of this year, the pair officially launched a coalition, ‘Partenariat pour le Coton’ – of which Better Cotton is a member – to accelerate work on this front.

In doing so, they issued a call for investment, emphasising that the current balance of exporting 90% cotton raw material falls short of the region’s economic potential. While raw material exports generate vital revenues, organisations active on the continent believe there is scope to bolster local processing capacities in order to boost incomes.

Better Cotton’s assessments – conducted with support from its Programme Partners in Mali and Côte d’Ivoire – will connect farming communities to the WTO and FIFA’s mission to strengthen supply chains in the region.

Better Cotton remains committed to Africa and continues to build upon its presence on the continent. In November 2023, the organisation launched its programme in Côte d’Ivoire and co-hosted an event in Chad to discuss opportunities to establish a programme in the country.

Alan McClay, Chief Executive Officer at Better Cotton, commented: “Africa is a vibrant and exciting region for cotton production and our expansion on the continent is demonstrative of that. At the heart of our mission are cotton farmers, workers and the surrounding communities – these assessments will help optimise our efforts and pave the way for continued sustainable economic development across Mali and Côte d’Ivoire.”

Kanayo Awani, Executive Vice President, Intra-African Trade Bank, Afreximbank, said: “Through initiatives like these, we are committed to supporting Africa’s smallholder farmers and the entire cotton value chain, enabling them to extract maximum value from their produce, boost value addition, attain higher levels of sustainability and improve quality, all while prioritising superior products with global market potential.”