Saturday 24 February 2024, 17:30

World Trade Organization and FIFA reaffirm commitment to Cotton-4 plus African countries

  • Special event organised around the 13th World Trade Organization (WTO) Ministerial Conference in Abu Dhabi

  • FIFA President commits to introduce C4+ products into FIFA programmes

  • WTO Director-General stresses that it is a must for Africa to tap into the global football economy

FIFA President Gianni Infantino has stressed the importance of FIFA’s partnership with the World Trade Organization (WTO) in delivering on actions that provide real impact in improving lives and livelihoods in West Africa and committed to using products from Cotton-4 plus (C4+) in FIFA programmes.

Mr Infantino was in Abu Dhabi to speak at a special event which was staged around the 13th WTO Ministerial Conference and chaired by WTO Director-General Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala.

The event brought together ministers and senior officials from across the WTO’s 164 member states as well as key partners, aiming to generate progress on key international trade discussions that aim to foster development.

FIFA and the WTO signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) in September 2022 to explore how best to use football to promote economic inclusion in developing countries, to analyse the economic impact of football and its role in unlocking global economic growth potential and to seek options for the development of capacity-building activities that support the use of football as a tool for women economic empowerment, all of this with a focus on the WTO’s cotton programme. “Football touches the emotions of people, and that’s why we need to use football to promote not just football development but to help people in their day-to-day life,” said the FIFA President. “The C4+ initiative in partnership with the WTO is fantastic for FIFA because it puts the spotlight through football on something special.”

Cotton is a vital cash crop for the West African C4+ countries – Benin, Burkina Faso, Chad and Mali – as well as in Côte d’Ivoire. The cotton produced in these countries is among the most sustainable in the world however, most is exported as a raw material rather than finished product. If that could be changed to mean the field-to-fabric cycle is completed in the C4+ nations, they would gain a greater share in the sport apparel market revenues.

“Together with the WTO and other partners, FIFA wants to do something real, something concrete, something impactful, and something that will have an influence on the life of many people,” said Mr Infantino. “We want to create jobs. We want to help in the fight against poverty. We want to empower women - especially in these countries - and this is something that we need to pursue and push.”

Earlier, the FIFA President explained that football had a real economic impact of almost USD 270 billion, with at least 70% of that generated in Europe. By growing the football economy outside of Europe, the potential exists for that value to grow to half-a-trillion, helping raise the standard of lives around the world in the process.

“We really (wanted to) get involved in something that can make a material difference in the lives of people in Africa and this partnership is designed to do that - produce value added products on the continent that can go straight into the sports apparel value chain,” said Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala. “The economic value in the sport is so underappreciated. It’s an exciting potential that we have not really tapped on the continent. 70% of the income is generated in Europe, and this must be expanded to other regions. We have to get some of this back into Africa; we absolutely must!”

FIFA’s partnership with WTO is playing a part to promote sustainable development via the global football economy, with a specific focus on the C4+ cotton-producing countries in Africa. Initiatives such as committing to using C4+ cotton products in its programmes help drive efforts and investment into the C4+ and African continental value chains.

“FIFA is an association in which 211 countries are members of from all over the world,” the FIFA President added. “The big countries, the big clubs, have their own producers for apparel, but many others from all over the world struggle to find somebody who produces jerseys and so on for them. We want to support them where needed through this partnership with the WTO.

“Equally, when it comes to FIFA, we also have some projects around the world. Football for Schools is an education project, and we want to use the sportswear that we require to be produced in the C4+ countries.”

Prior to the end of the event, the FIFA President, the WTO Director-General, together with FIFA Legends Christian Karembeu, Khalilou Fadiga and FIFA Member Associations Africa Director Gelson Fernandes, unveiled the new ‘Partenariat pour le coton’ branding which will be used for more impactful engagement in leveraging sports for greater industrial and socio-economic growth.

In addition to some panel discussions, there were individual speeches from Thani bin Ahmed Al Zeyoudi, the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs of the United Arab Emirates, Ahmat Abdelkerim Ahmat, the Minister of Trade and Industry of Chad, Shadiya Alimatou Assouman the Minister of Industry and Trade, Republic of Benin, and Moussa Alassane Diallo, Minister of Industry and Trade, Republic of Mali.