While Ethiopia eyes a 30 billion dollar annual export revenue from textile and apparel, aiming to leapfrog top exporters like that of Vietnam and Bangladesh in less than a decade, there is a promising sign that the global fashion industry is embracing “Made in Ethiopia” at an exciting pace, sector stakeholders believe.

The competitiveness of the fashion industry is shaped by a number of factors. The industry has a three trillion dollar annual sale value worldwide. At the same time, it is also a highly competitive industry in the global market.fashion

Currently, global apparel giants like PVH, H&M, Vanity Fair, Zara, among others, are taking part in revolutionizing Ethiopia’s textile and apparel business.

Competitiveness is highly shaped by brands that are globally valued and esteemed, among other factors, says Fitsum Arega, Commissioner of Ethiopian Investment Commission in an exclusive interview with The Ethiopian Herald.

“These days, fashion buyers are concerned about brands way more than other factors, such as countries of production”.

“In addition, Addis Ababa has also benefited through the guests’ activities, as hotels were fully booked out, restaurants had new guests, and our carrier partner Ethiopian Airlines has been flying them to and from Addis. We are speaking of about 3,500 trade visitors and over 240 exhibitors which have a team of over 500 persons. In total, Addis Ababa took care of over 4,000 people during the whole week.”

Ethiopian textile and garment industry has a bright prospect and potential to be a giant manufacturing industry in the continent. To reach this goal, it is important that the government support investors by reducing bureaucratic red tapes and facilitating efficient visa issues and customs services. Moreover, these kinds of events are crucial to sensitize the business community and show them what is really on the ground.

It is tough to attract investors, said Negasi, but it is even tougher to keep them in the business. For manufacturers it is of utmost importance that they can get in their machines easily and export their outfits on time. “Custom has been an issue in the past, but we have been informed that the government is working hard to solve the issue.”

The country is set to have a total of ten industrial parks including the already operational ones, exclusively customized for the whole value chain of textile and apparel manufacturing. In addition to these government financed factory sheds, private industrial parks are in the pipeline. For instance, while Velocity Industrial Park at Makalle has already gone operational and is attracting more investors, similar projects are underway in Mojo and Alemgena, explained Fitsum.

The Fashion Week is a golden opportunity to show the world how extraordinarily the country is doing in terms of creating conducive atmosphere for investors. In the sector, Ethiopia provides an investment advantage that could give a competitive edge to investors in the international fashion industry. “Our strategic location in Eastern Africa and the ample incentive packages offered for investors coupled with low labor and electricity cost, would secure an immense strategic advantage in the targeted western markets,” said Fitsum.

Moreover, according to Fitsum, the western market is the biggest market for the fashion industry whereas Ethiopia, unlike its Asian competitors has a quota free export scheme which provides another competitive advantage to those who manufacture in Ethiopia.

Sustainability is an important issue that has been taken in to consideration on the event. Textile, leather and apparel production is the second biggest polluter of the environment, next to oil. If not managed properly, the chemical wastes from these factories could pose the biggest challenge to the environment. That’s why, the Ethiopian government from the beginning has given due emphasis for sustainability. “For instance, the Zero-Liquid discharge facility at the Hawassa Industrial Park is one good exhibit that demonstrates our effort for sustainability,” argued Fitsum.