Organization and P...

Organization and Performance of Cotton Sectors in Africa

Learning from Reform Experience

Cotton is a major source of foreign exchange earnings in more than 15 countries across all regions of Sub-Saharan African (SSA) and a crucial source of cash income for millions of rural people in these countries. The crop is, therefore, critical in the fight against rural poverty. The World Bank and other development institutions have been and are currently assisting many cottonexporting countries of SSA to improve their cotton sector performance through projects supporting investment as well as through policy and institutional reform.

Many SSA countries have been implementing or are considering implementing reforms of their cotton industries. The ultimate objective of the reform programs is to strengthen the competitiveness of cotton production, processing, and exports in an increasingly demanding world market and to ensure long-term, sustainable, and equitable growth for these major sectors of many African economies. The reform programs generally entail redefining the role of the state; facilitating greater involvement of the private sector and farmer organizations; ensuring greater competition in input and output markets; improving productivity through research and development, extension, and technology dissemination; and seeking value addition through market development and processing of cotton lint and by-products.

This study was undertaken by the Environmentally and Socially Sustainable Development Department of the Africa Region of the World Bank to fill a perceived gap in knowledge on the lessons to be drawn from nearly two decades of cotton sector reforms in SSA. Recent experience in policy dialogue, particularly with West African countries, shows that very often the analytical points of reference are limited to neighboring countries. At a time when the design of cotton sector reform programs has become extremely complex and potentially risky, stronger and broader analysis, drawing on a broader array of empirical evidence, and reflecting strategically on potential options, would be very useful for policy makers. The lack of such analysis, especially of the reform options available and of their possible implications, partly explains the reluctance of many governments to engage in ambitious restructuring of their cotton sectors. Therefore, the main objective of this study is to provide an in-depth and comparative analysis of the reforms that have been implemented by SSA cotton sectors since 1990, and, from there, to establish links between reforms and observable outcomes.

Seventy-five percent of the world’s poor live in rural areas and most are involved in agriculture. In the 21st century, agriculture remains fundamental to economic growth, poverty alleviation, and environmental sustainability. The World Bank’s Agriculture and Rural Development publication series presents recent analyses of issues that affect the role of agriculture, including livestock, fisheries, and forestry, as a source of economic development, rural livelihoods, and environmental services. This report is part of a series intended for practical application. To read other reports in this series, visit

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