MilestonesCotton made in Africa

In its short history so far, the Cotton made in Africa initiative has already achieved some important milestones. Within just a few years, an idea was turned into a globally acting, sustainable trade network. In 2007 some 400,000 garments were made from Cotton made in Africa and sold in the market – from there the initiative has grown to 25 times that amount, selling 10,000,000 garments in 2010, thanks to steady growth in its Demand Alliance. For 2011, Cotton made in Africa expects further partnerships in the framework of the Demand Alliance, with substantial growth in global demand again.


The conference of the WTO (World Trade Organization) in Cancun failed as a result of protests by African countries, rejecting distortions of trade by agricultural subsidies.

CmiA graphic
CmiA graphic

2005 – Establishment

The Cotton made in Africa initiative was launched by entrepreneur Dr. Michael Otto, setting up the Aid by Trade Foundation as its organiser. The partners of the initiative included not only government organisations such as the development organisations DEG (Deutsche Investitions- und Entwicklungsgesellschaft) and GTZ (Gesellschaft für technische Zusammenarbeit), but also non-governmental organisations such as WWF and Welthungerhilfe, and two private-sector companies. The initiative started its work in Benin, Burkina Faso and Zambia, and began training for 150,000 smallholder farmers.


The first product (a men’s jacket) was made of Cotton made in Africa. Another five companies joined the Demand Alliance, and used Cotton made in Africa for their collections.

CmiA graphic
CmiA graphic


About 440,000 garments from Cotton made in Africa were sold in 2007. The Foundation now had a total of five employees.


The number of CmiA garments sold rose to more than two million. Another prominent supporter joined the initiative with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

CmiA graphic
CmiA graphic


Demand for Cotton made rose to more than 6 million garments. The initiative expanded into the US; the first American companies joined as a partner. Malawi and Côte d'Ivoire were added as further growing regions. The first external verification was conducted in the three West African countries Benin, Burkina Faso and Côte d'Ivoire. A literacy programme was launched in Burkina Faso for 5,000 adults in the CmiA growing region.


The first external verification was conducted in the southern African countries Zambia and Malawi. The initiative now had more than 20 demand partners from Germany, France, Spain, Belgium, the Netherlands and the US, with sales of more than 10 million garments from Cotton made in Africa. A total of 240,000 smallholder farmers were involved in the initiative (1.2 million people including family members) in Benin, Burkina Faso, Côte d'Ivoire, Malawi and Zambia. 90,328 tonnes of Cotton made in Africa were produced on a total area of 316,509 hectares.

Forecast 2011/2012

Growing area: 500,000 ha

Cotton: 160,000 t

Smallholder farmers: 450,000

Garments: more than 15 million


2011 starts with good progress for the Cotton made in Africa initiative. Further cotton companies, Cargill  Zambia amongst others, join the initiative. Thus Cotton made in Africa is now working with an increasing number of African smallholder farmers. Further literacy programmes and community projects are being conducted in cooperation with various partners.

Albert Watson: Visions feat. Cotton made in AfricaThe exhibition and the project behind it

This exceptional collaboration with fashion and commercial photographer Albert Watson will provide insight into the cotton farmers' worlds and transport a better awareness of CmiA's work.

The photos will illustrate the initiative's goal to improve social conditions in the smallholder farmers’ lives without visual stereotypes. The aim is in contrast to show a new image of African living environments – through the eyes of Albert Watson. In addition to the cotton harvest, that was underway during the journey, Watson has also visited traditional markets and a regional king in Benin to get an impression of the diversity of life in Benin and its people.

African cottonIn demand worldwide

African cotton is almost exclusively grown by smallholder farmers, using sustainable growing methods with harmony between agriculture, the natural environment and human beings. About 8% of the cotton traded in the world market is harvested in Sub-Saharan Africa. In Africa cotton is almost exclusively grown by smallholder farmers, and there are only very few large plantations. ...