Circular threads: What EU policies mean for sustainable textile exports from Kenya
Countries exporting to the EU market face new policies and requirements as the bloc moves towards a greener and circular economy. In this paper, Nadia Ashraf and Poorva Karkare look at the case of Kenya to examine the opportunities of the upcoming EU policies for its textiles exporters in light of its industrialisation priority.
The move towards a circular economy provides opportunities to carve out a niche in the EU market, also allowing for product and/or process, and functional upgrading.
As the European Union (EU) moves towards a greener and circular economy, exporting countries face new policies and requirements to enter the EU market, including the textiles sector where the bloc imports a significant share of its needs.
Many low- and middle-income countries in the ‘Global South’ prioritise the development of their textiles industry and depend on foreign markets, including the EU, as they embark on the path to export-led industrialisation. Consequently, they will increasingly need to accommodate higher environmental and social requirements to respond to changing trends in the consumer market. In this paper, we look at the case of Kenya to examine the implications of upcoming EU policies for its textiles exporters in light of its industrialisation priority. To a large extent, opportunities for environmental upgrading depend on existing capabilities. This means that current bottlenecks to the development of the conventional textiles sector, beyond apparels, will also have an impact on the prospects for circular textiles in the country.
Nevertheless, opportunities exist – under circular design and waste management, including recycling, circular production processes, and transparency and traceability. In addition, we point out two pathways for upgrading – the first includes process upgrading within the current configuration of the global value chain while the second includes product upgrading through independent firm strategies to strengthen competitiveness and functional upgrading through vertical integration. This in turn requires a proactive strategy in a more bottom-up way to enable greater domestic value capture and promote traceability and transparency, through a dedicated industrial policy.