The Ethiopian textile and garment industry, particularly the garment industry, has an international comparative advantage among others due to a large, well trained workforce and competitive labour costs. The country has been manufacturing various types of textile products both for the domestic and global market. The sector’s performance has improved over the years in terms of attracting foreign direct investments, increasing exports and creating job opportunities. Though the textile and garment sector is one of the most important and emerging sectors, it requires strategic support and coordination to unleash its potential and ensure sustainable development at the meantime.
From 21st to 26th November 2019, an Ethiopian delegation visited Beijing and Shanghai to review applicability of Chinese approaches and practices to the development context in Ethiopia’s textile industry. A focus was on current issues around sustainable industry development as well as future perspectives. The delegation visit was jointly organized by the Sino-German Center for Sustainable Development (CSD) and the Sustainable Textile Programme in Ethiopia (eTex) which is commissioned by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) and implemented by GIZ. The delegation comprised five members from Ethiopia’s Ministry of Trade and Industry (MoTI), the Ethiopian Textile Industry Development Institute (ETIDI), an Ethiopian government supported institute prompting development of the textile industry, and GIZ.
The Delegation’s Beijing visit kicked off with a meeting in the Office for Social Responsibility within the China National Textile and Apparel Council (CNTAC) on 21st November. The Office which was established in 2005 is the first organization for the promotion of Corporate Social Responsibility in China. Under its flagship project – Sustainability Stewardship – societal and environmental challenges in the textile industry are addressed and smart solutions are provided to achieve sustainability goals in the areas: supply chain, innovation, fashion and Belt and Road Initiative.
The delegation gained an overview of CNTAC’s solid results in promoting sustainability in the textile industry. Addressing specific interests of delegation members, the meeting also shed light on how to integrate stakeholders from different sectors, especially the private sector and academia, to utilize synergies. The 2019 Fashion Innovation Hub set up by CNTAC was used as example of successful stakeholder integration. The Hub cannot succeed without technical support from universities and financial support from financial institutions. Linking academia, industry and private sector, the Hub lays a solid foundation for the marketization of technical solutions that can overcome critical difficulties in pollution prevention, emission reduction, recycling, energy saving, resource minimization and restricted substances control.
In the afternoon of 21st November, GIZ China received the delegation for an experience exchange with two textile sector projects implemented in China. In the framework of BMZ’s develoPPP.de programme, GIZ cooperates with the German retail enterprises Tchibo and REWE Group in China and Bangladesh. Local textile manufactures get assistance through this project to reduce the use of hazardous chemicals and local training and advisory networks are established for them. The regional programme Promoting Sustainability in the textile and garment industry in Asia (FABRIC) which is commissioned by BMZ has been working together closely with CNTAC to promote sustainability standards with Chinese investors in the textile and garment sector in South/South-East Asia.
The experience exchange was followed by a discussion of the triangular project between Ethiopia, China and Germany on Sustainable Textile Investment and Operation in Ethiopia which is currently being prepared in the framework of the CSD as joint initiative of BMZ, China’s Ministry of Commerce (MofCom) and MoTI. The delegation discussed with representatives from GIZ and CNTAC mainly about cooperation with Chinese invested and Ethiopian enterprises in the project as well as about links with other bilateral projects in Ethiopia’s textile sector. The potential was highlighted to utilize Chinese experience not only in the triangular project but also in other projects. Topics could include international leading practices customization, support on developing green and sustainable industrial parks, promotion of industrial culture and social standards, etc.
On 22nd November the delegation paid a visit to the Research Institute for Global Value Chains (RIGVC) at the University of International Business and Economics (UIBE). RIGVC is an academic research organization integrating teaching, scientific research and think tank functions, based on the Ministry-University Co-Development Agreement between UIBE and MofCom. Back in 2017, RIGVC drafted the assessment “Sustainable Trade and Global Value Chains for Textile Products” in the framework of the project “Building Capacities for Sustainable Textile Trade and Global Value Chains in Jiangsu” by the United Nations Environment Programme.
RIGVC gave a thorough view of this assessment to the delegation. The assessment covered market access and competitiveness concerns as well as other barriers to enhanced sustainability in textile trade and value chains. Although China and Ethiopia are facing different challenges in regard to industrialization, a common challenge is the status quo of making low value-added products and being in the simple processing production stage of the global value chain. This in the future could be one element inspiring insights, reflection, communication and cooperation between the two countries.
The last stop in Beijing was the China National Cleaner Production and Circular Economy Center (CNCPCEC) at the China Research Academy of Environmental Sciences (CRAES). CNCPCEC is a research institute focusing on ecological industry and cleaner production (CP). CNCPCEC went through the background and status of CP in China, specifically the institutional framework for promoting CP, legislation and regulation, technical support system, and CP assessments.
The discussion between the delegation and CNCPCEC did not cover textile and garment only. It encompassed a more macro picture of the whole industrial sector. It concluded that sustainable development of the textile industry rests on the maturity and integrity of a country’s overall environmental policies.
The delegation set off to Shanghai to participate in the 19th International Exhibition on Textile Industry on 23rd November. The exhibition is a high-quality platform for future textile and fashion trends and innovation. It brings top-notch technology from cross-border industries where textile applications and innovative designs can be drawn into reality.
As part of the prologue to more concreate collaboration, including the upcoming triangular project, this visit to China provided the Ethiopian delegation with original perspectives, first-hand impressions and vivid examples of China’s sustainable development course in the textile industry which may support Ethiopian textile industry’s development.
After the stay in China the delegation travelled to Vietnam and Bangladesh.