Blog: Michelle RussellBig gap between Ethiopia export goals and reality

Michelle Russell | 10 December 2014

Ethiopia may have more trump cards to play than any other sub-Sahara African country when it comes to developing a competitive cotton, textile and garment supply chain, but it still has a rough road ahead. Indeed, Ethiopia's growth as a garment exporter will be slower and more difficult than the government and local textile organisations predict.

Theoretically, all the necessary ingredients are available to transform Ethiopia into an internationally competitive textile nation. According to the Growth and Transformation Plan launched in mid-2010, during the fiscal year 2013-14 Ethiopia should have exported textile articles worth US$435m. Exports, however, only reached a quarter of this, at US$111m, with very low wages being counterbalanced by low labour productivity.

In contrast, Vietnam's garment and textile export turnover is predicted to reach $24.5bn in 2014, an increase of over 19% on last year - and the largest rise in three years - new figures show.

According to the Vietnam National Textile and Garment Group (Vinatex), the industry's efforts in the strategic direction of production, and increasing localisation, have helped increase competitiveness. To date, the sector has raised the localisation rate to more than 50%.

The global footwear industry, meanwhile, is expected to grow 4-5% to nearly $200bn next year as the world's firming economy fuels consumer demand for leading brands such as Nike or Steve Madden, industry executives believe.

Low-income workers, however, are likely to dominate the global garment-making workforce for a long time yet, despite recent forecasts that the number of low-cost countries is dwindling. The key issue will be ensuring garment manufacture makes them less poor; not trying to do without them, an industry expert says.

Elsewhere, a raft of analysis from sales during the Black Friday weekend poured in, and it seems early holiday promotions, the growth of online shopping, and an improving economy, are changing the way US consumers approach what is seen the biggest shopping weekend of the year.

On the sustainability front, UK retailer Marks & Spencer has increased the amount of Better Cotton it sources, moving a step closer to achieving its Plan A commitment to procure 50% from sustainable sources by 2020. The group also revealed its current search for a head of international supply chain. The move comes as Steve Finlan, director of international operations, steps down from his role.

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