Blog: Michelle RussellIs Ethiopia the place to be?

Michelle Russell | 2 November 2015

There has been a big buzz around Ethiopia as a potential source of apparel for at least the last five years ­– yet exports in 2014 were just US$112m. But that could finally be set to change, with sourcing specialists at this year's 'Origin Africa' event seeming to agree that Ethiopia is the place to be.

From fast-growing textile hub Mekele, to expansion plans by several international groups to grow their production capabilities in Ethiopia, the scale of current and planned investments in the country appears to be accelerating.

Indeed, the country's first fully-integrated denim facility has just been inaugurated, with a $50m investment by Kanoria Africa Textiles, a subsidiary of the Indian group Kanoria Chemicals & Industries, and Hong Kong-based Fung Capital.

Global manufacturing hubs in South-East Asia – including key clothing and footwear producers Vietnam and Cambodia – could see double-digit drops in worker productivity over the next 30 years due to the impact of rising temperatures and extreme heat stress, a new report has warned.

It also cautions that investors in ‘extreme risk’ countries may face rising costs for manufacturing and health care provisions for workers, alongside potential disruption in their supply chains.

A promised referendum on Britain’s continuing membership of the EU – and the possibility of a Brexit in two years’ time – would also have massive implications for world apparel trade, one industry expert predicts.

Elsewhere, outdoor fabric technology specialist WL Gore & Associates has launched a raft of innovative new textile brands for autumn/winter 2016 using new technologies, propelling the group into the growing category of active insulation and hybrid outerwear.

US sportswear giant Under Armour has also been busy, adding more detail to the building blocks that will help the company achieve its big-picture ambitions – including a shake-up of the way it makes its products. The company plans to double annual revenues to US$7.5bn by 2018.

Meanwhile, in other news: Esquel Group has invested US$2.4m in Sea Island cotton research in China; Indonesia wants to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal; US brands have emphasised Hong Kong’s role as the gateway to the burgeoning Asian market and an important sourcing hub; and third-quarter results continued to pour in from US retailers and clothing brands.

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