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By Homa Mulisa

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

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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". Fashion consumers, especially top-notch buyers, put much confidence on products with specifically well established brands. Chinese made products have been popular across the globe for a brief time whereas currently countries like Vietnam are pushing to dominate the fashion market.

What is fueling this push, according to Fitsum is the fact that the well known fashion brands have also made these competitive countries their manufacturing destinations. "For instance, Bangladesh built the industry for more than 25 years. Currently, the country exports an annual fashion products amounting up to twenty six billion US dollars, making the nation the second largest exporter of such products behind China. "The reason behind this tremendous achievement is that, first and foremost the well established brands operating in that country," he says.

If Bangladesh could take over the fashion market like that, Ethiopia has even a far better opportunity in the whole value chain of the industry. As competitiveness in price is another crucial factor besides top brands, for the success of the industry, Ethiopia offers a lot of opportunities in that regard, he adds. The country's ecology is conducive for cotton cultivation. There is a big number of energetic and young human power at a reasonable cost. There is a huge electricity access at the lowest cost possible. Hence, Ethiopia is very suitable for the whole value chain in the industry from cotton cultivation to high-end outfits, reducing the amount and type of inputs exported that are needed for the manufacturing.

Ethiopia is working in consideration of all these factors to emerge as a hot spot for corporations in the textile and apparel sector. For instance, the Hawassa Industrial Park, exclusively hosting the whole value-chain actors of textile and apparel is a state-of-the-art facility which is also eco-friendly. This, according to Fitsum, is another important factor that could be added to the brand names that build the good trust of the country, making outfits made in Ethiopia accepted by consumers and establishing a longstanding goodwill.

Skander Negasi, CEO of Trade and Events Consulting at Messe Frankfurt, a German based fashion event organizer tells The Ethiopian Herald that, Ethiopia is now becoming more and more known in the design and textile manufacturing industry. "The Made in Ethiopia or Made by Ethiopia tag is amazing the world which is very interesting," he says. The industry is already working hard by setting good platforms for all actors in the sector to thrive, according to Negasi. "Good industrial parks are being set up. Our job is also important here, because we need to promote these industrial parks and international investors so that the well known international manufacturers could get in touch with Africa and specially Ethiopia."

"With what Ethiopia is doing in the sector, the world is very amazed. When I say the world, I am talking about the textile, apparel and fashion industry," adds Negasi in amusement, who also organized a continental fashion week in Addis Ababa. Sileshi Lemma, Director General at Ethiopian Textile Industry Development Institute says fashion events are very important that show what Ethiopia is doing in terms boosting its textile and apparel industry to the next level. Successful execution in the textile and apparel industry is also very important because, pursuant to government agenda, the industry is considered to be a springboard for other development goals, he adds.

"Consequently the more top investors with well established brand names enter the country for investment, the more these people are able to promote other products that are made in Ethiopia. When exhibitions and fashion weeks are channeled in Ethiopia, the number of participants who travel to Addis Ababa from all over the world has been increasing in recent times. This signals, the fashion world has already started to pay attention to the country and its apparel industry, says Sileshi.

Such events are excellent platforms for suppliers of raw materials, manufacturers, retailers and buyers to meet at a specified point. The platform is a good opportunity for them to witness where Ethiopia is standing and where the country is heading as far as textile and apparel industry is concerned. All the signs are dictating that Ethiopia is building a sustainable fashion industry that could be among the top competitors in the global market.

Source: All Africa