Ethiopia sets its sights on $30bn apparel exports

Among the firms currently setting up operations in the flagship Hawassa Industrial Park are PVH Corp, owner of the Calvin Klein and Tommy Hilfiger brands

Ethiopia is raising the bar on its garment and textile ambitions, targeting exports worth $30bn by 2025: a huge goal for a country whose annual shipments currently sit at just $115m. Speaking for the first time about the plans, Dr Arkebe Oqubay, a minister and special advisor to Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn, shares with just-style the “bold vision” he believes will transform this East African nation into a compelling new sourcing hub for brands, retailers and their suppliers.

“By 2025 we want to make Ethiopia the leading apparel and textile manufacturing hub in Africa capable of exporting up to $30bn. This is the single, bold vision we have,” explains Dr Arkebe.

Speaking with just-style from his office on the third floor of the Prime Minister’s Office in the capital Addis Ababa, he adds: “It is a challenge, but one we are confident we can achieve. We believe if Vietnam can do it, if Bangladesh can do it, Ethiopia can do it even better.”

It’s the first time the country’s vision has been spelled out in such detail. And with annual clothing exports of just US$73.25m in 2015, there’s no doubt the country does indeed have a massive battle on its hands.

Its goal represents a 300-fold rise in shipments in just eight years. Looked at another way, Ethiopia’s combined textile and clothing exports of $114.8m are just a fraction of the revenues of companies like TAL Apparel ($850m) and Arvind Limited ($770m) who are in the process of setting up production facilities in the country.

It’s not the first time Ethiopia’s government has looked to the textile and clothing supply chain as one of the country’s key targets for growth, as just-style first reported around a decade ago.

But what seems very different now is that the government has a clear view about how it intends to achieve its goals, honed from an almost unprecedented level of collaboration with leading fashion brands and retailers, manufacturers.

Its plans extend to building a sustainable, fully vertical supply chain from the ground up and, crucially, leading players from across the industry are flocking to the country.

“The one thing that is unique in Ethiopia is that there has never been such an organised roadmap dedicated to apparel and textiles…not in any country in the world,” explains Ranjan Mahtani, chairman and CEO of Hong Kong based Epic Group, one of the world’s largest producers of woven tops and bottoms, which has just shipped its first products from the country.

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VIDEO: Ethiopia opens Africa’s largest industrial park

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