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The Textile Industry in Nigeria: Challenges and Opportunities for Growth

The textile industry in Nigeria has a long and rich history but has faced many challenges in recent decades. However, there are still tremendous opportunities for growth if the right strategies and investments are made. This article provides a detailed overview of the Nigerian textile industry – its history, decline, and prospects for revival.

A History of the Textile Industry in Nigeria

The Nigerian textile industry dates back centuries, with the ancient city of Kano being a major producer and trading centre for clothing made from locally grown cotton. Kano was known for its fine indigo-dyed textiles which were prized across West Africa.

During the colonial era, Britain developed much of Nigeria’s textile infrastructure, establishing modern spinning and weaving mills while purchasing cotton produced by Nigerian farmers. By the 1960s, Nigeria had over 180 textile mills in operation, employing over 450,000 people. The textile industry became the second largest employer after agriculture.

Key drivers of growth in the post-independence era:

  • Import substitution policies that protected local manufacturers from foreign competition
  • Booming domestic cotton production, which reached 450,000 tons annually in the 1980s
  • Rapid urbanization and population growth driving consumer demand
  • Government incentives and financing to establish factories

By the mid-1980s, the Nigerian textile industry had grown to account for 25% of manufacturing employment and 8% of GDP. There were many successful manufacturers producing high-quality fabrics for export and domestic consumption.

The Decline of the Nigerian Textile Industry

Despite its strong growth in earlier decades, the Nigerian textile industry has been in decline since the late 1980s due to a combination of factors:

Policy Shifts and Cheap Imports

  • The liberalization of trade policies in the 1980s led to a flood of cheap textile imports, especially from China and India. Local factories could not compete on price.
  • Reduced tariffs and removal of import quotas made foreign textiles much cheaper. For example, in the 1980s, imported printed fabric sold for as little as N15 per yard compared to N32 per yard for local prints.

Infrastructural Deficiencies

  • Inconsistent electricity supply increased production costs due to reliance on diesel generators.
  • Outdated production technologies and lack of investment in new machinery.
  • Poor transportation infrastructure drove up distribution costs.

Smuggling and Counterfeiting

  • Smuggled textiles avoided import duties and were sold well below market prices. Estimates suggest 90% or more of “local” wax prints were smuggled by the 2000s.
  • Counterfeiting of popular brands like Woodin, Da Viva, and NichemTex undermined local factories.

High Costs of Local Sourcing

  • The decline of Nigeria’s cotton industry due to low yields, poor quality seeds, high production costs and weaker government support made local sourcing uncompetitive.
  • Textile firms now import over 300,000 tons of cotton annually.

By the 2000s, these challenges had led to the closure of over 175 textile mills and the loss of over 200,000 jobs. The industry capacity utilization plunged from 70% to just 5%.

Current State of Nigeria’s Textile Sector

Despite the decline, Nigeria’s textile industry still holds some bright spots and remains an important manufacturing sector. Some key facts about its current state:

  • There are now less than 40 functional textile firms in Nigeria, mostly located in Lagos, Kano and Kaduna.
  • Total textile production has dropped to just 60 million yards annually compared to over 500 million in the 1980s.
  • N440 billion is spent annually importing textiles and apparel to meet local demand.
  • The sector employs around 45,000 people presently compared to over 600,000 people at its peak.
  • Informal artisanal hubs like Nnewi and Aba in southeastern Nigeria still drive innovation and micro-scale production.
  • There is a cultural affinity for locally made textiles, which comprise 15% of apparel consumption.
  • Exports are minimal – less than 2% of total production. Export destinations are mainly African countries.
  • Recent GDP contribution is less than 1% although real value-added figures could be higher due to smuggling and underreporting in the informal economy.
  • Major operational challenges continue to include smuggling, counterfeiting, infrastructure deficiencies and limited access to finance.

While no longer the economic powerhouse it once was, Nigeria’s textile industry still holds opportunities for regeneration. There are strengths to build on, including domestic cotton production, established industrial hubs, proven export markets, and creative entrepreneurs ready to leverage demand for “Made in Nigeria” goods.

Key Opportunities for Growth in the Textile Sector

Experts recommend the following strategies for reviving Nigeria’s textile industry and unlocking its potential for job creation and economic growth:

Boost Local Cotton Sourcing

  • Renewed focus on cotton farming yields and quality to supply 50% of fabric production needs locally.
  • Introduction of high-yield, disease-resistant cotton varieties and training for farmers.
  • Price guarantees or subsidies to encourage cotton production.
  • Ginning facilities and cotton testing labs to enforce quality standards.

Export Focus

  • Leveraging AGOA and other trade partnerships to gain duty-free access to US and EU fashion markets.
  • Supporting manufacturers to meet international standards.
  • Branding campaigns promoting Nigerian textiles globally.

Technology Upgrades

  • Automation technologies to enhance production efficiency.
  • Digital textile printing for mass customization.
  • Solar renewable energy to reduce power costs.
  • Technology and skills transfer partnerships.

Product Innovation

  • Developing new fabrics using blends and synthetic fibres for modern consumers.
  • Exploring technical textiles like protective fabrics, medical textiles, geosynthetics etc.
  • Fashion design training to embed Nigerian aesthetics into global styles.

SME and Cottage Industry Promotion

  • Providing low-cost manufacturing sheds and facilities for small producers.
  • Equipment leasing, microfinance and other access to capital initiatives.
  • Knitwear clusters and garment manufacturing hubs across Nigeria.

Anti-Smuggling and Anti-Counterfeiting

  • Improved border patrol and enforcement of customs regulations.
  • Public awareness campaigns on the effects of counterfeit goods.
  • Technology solutions like QR code tracking to verify authenticity and origin.

Fashion Infrastructure

  • Establishing textile and garment industrial parks with integrated facilities.
  • Improved nationwide distribution networks.
  • Revamped institutional support for testing, product development and training.

With a strategic approach focused on its competitive advantages, the Nigerian textile industry can reclaim its past glory as a leading employer, exporter and engine of inclusive economic growth. The demand for “Made in Nigeria” goods is stronger than ever both locally and internationally. With the right policies and institutional support, Nigeria’s textile sector is ripe for a resurgence.

Key Challenges and Downside Risks Remain

However, even with ample opportunities, Nigerian textile manufacturers face several lingering challenges:

Difficulty Accessing Finance

  • High-interest rates between 15% to 25% make borrowing expensive.
  • Banks view the textile industry as high-risk.
  • No specialized funding/lending programs for the sector.

Infrastructure Gaps

  • Inconsistent power supply necessitates diesel generators and drives up costs.
  • Poor road networks and port congestion delay shipments.
  • Communications gaps across supply chains.

Unfavourable Trade Policies

  • AfCFTA opens Nigeria to more competition from efficient African producers like Ethiopia and Kenya.
  • CET discourages the use of imported inputs needed for quality textiles.
  • Exports are still hindered by bureaucracy and customs delays.

Reliance on Imports

  • Local cotton supply remains below 50% of demand, forcing reliance on imports.
  • Most fabric dyeing/finishing chemicals and textile machineries are imported.

Governance and Corruption Issues

  • Smuggling persists due to continued porous borders, corruption and weak enforcement.
  • Diversion of textile funds or overhead costs from government initiatives.

Low Manpower Development

  • Acute shortage of technical skills due to an ageing workforce and lack of training programs.
  • Weak institutional support for textiles R&D and product development.

Poor Competitiveness

  • Outdated equipment and inefficient processes result in low productivity.
  • Weak quality control and standardization practices.

Overcoming these challenges will require multi-stakeholder engagement between industry, government, academia and international partners. Without addressing the root causes, growth opportunities may fail to translate into real economic gains.

Key Industry Players Driving Change

Despite the myriad challenges, some resilient manufacturers continue to operate successfully:

D ADA & Sons Ltd

The largest textile mill in Nigeria located in Kaduna. Annual production capacity of 120 million meters of printed fabrics and African prints. Major exporter to West African markets.

United Nigeria Textiles Plc

A major producer of wax print and lace fabrics. Also operates spinning, weaving and garment manufacturing units in Kaduna.

Sunflag Textile Mills Ltd

A modern industrial complex was established in 1997 to produce 75 million meters of woven fabric annually in Kano. Known for innovative damask fabrics.

Nigeria Textile Manufacturing Plc

Profiled as a model for the sector’s revival having bounced back from near collapse. Now running integrated spinning, weaving, printing and garment units.

valasilk Nigeria Limited

Luxury fabric mill specializing in silk production using imported fibres. Supplies elite fashion houses locally and abroad.

Matna Foods Nigeria Ltd

Agro-allied cotton growing and ginning company that supplies yarn to textile firms. Operates Africa’s largest cotton ginnery.

Lafia Textile Company Ltd

Known for traditional handloom weaving and adire textile production. Women make up 80% of the workforce promoting inclusion.

NichemTex Group

Leading indigenous clothing manufacturer. Innovative ‘farm-to-fashion’ business model with a vertically integrated supply chain.

Alongside these formal players, Nigeria’s informal artisanal textile micro-enterprises also display creativity and growth potential given the right support. With innovation, collaboration and policy reforms, a more dynamic, globally competitive Nigerian textiles industry can re-emerge.


In conclusion, the Nigerian textile industry holds substantial potential for growth despite experiencing a major decline over the past decades. With its strong manufacturing heritage, abundant labour, domestic cotton production, and fast-growing fashion markets, Nigeria possesses key fundamentals to revive the sector. Strategic priorities like boosting cotton supply chains, export promotion, technology upgrades, and supportive government policies can help firms overcome current challenges of smuggling, infrastructure deficits and limited financing. By leveraging its comparative advantages and implementing targeted reforms, Nigeria can regain its competitive edge in textile production, creating meaningful employment and economic diversification for its young population. The opportunities are ripe for reawakening the sleeping giant of Nigeria’s textiles industry.


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