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(#9 / 2018 - 15 May 2018)
The Gambia’s exports of textiles & apparel (HS50-63) to the US in 2017 were US$11k
The Gambia’s exports of textiles & apparel (HS50-63) to the US between 2008 and 2017 were US$164k
The Gambia’s exports of textiles & apparel (HS50-63) to the EU in 2017 were US$14.6k
According to the Industrial Federation of Textile, Leather & Garment Workers' Trade Unions (IFTLGWU) wages as low as 600Br (US$20) per month continue to haunt workers in Ethiopia’s textile and garment sector. Salaries are not enough for workers, over 90% of whom are women, to pay for transport, food and housing, or to support a family. These workers are part of Ethiopia's working poor, while making clothes for brands from Europe, the US and Asia including H&M, Tchibo, Tommy Hilfiger and Calvin Klein. To end poverty wages the IFTLGWU - supported by the IndustriALL Global Union - will campaign for better wages, workers’ rights to organise, and collective bargaining. The campaign targets the industrial parks set up by the Ethiopian government, including Bole Lemi (near Addis Ababa), Hawassa and Mekele. Ethiopian trade unions are also campainin
g for monthly minimum wages above 3373Br (about US$121). READ HERE >>
In December 2017 there were reports that the IFTLGWU had embarked upon a focused recruitment drive within some of Ethiopia's industrial parks. The recruitment drive was apparently supported by the Confederation of Ethiopian Trade Unions, FNV Mondiall, ILO, IndustriALL, and Solidaridad. READ HERE >>

On 12th May 2018 it was reported that a number of spontaneous wage strikes had broken out in some of the garment factories located in the Bole Lemi Industrial Park; and the (Chinese owned) Eastern Industrial Park. Both of these facilities lie on the outskirts of Ethiopia's capital of Addis Ababa. On 14th May it was reported that no work was taking place at many of the factories located in Bole Lemi (an industrial park focussed on the manufacture of textile, apparel and footwear products; with 10 sheds of of 5,500 m2; 10 sheds of 11,000 m2). Some 8,000 workers were reported as being on strike.

Comment: Minimum Wages in Ethiopia
Given the focus on the US apparel market by Ethiopian based manufacturers it will only be a matter of time before US trade unions (and associated labour support organisations) start to become involved in union organisational development work, and other union campaigns in Ethiopia. Already, so rumor has it, elements of the US' Department of Labour is making noises with regards freedom of association issues.

Comment: A Minimum Wage for South Africa
For those interested in national minimum wage debates - South Africa is currently going through the process of determining its national minimum wage setting architecture. The legislation that will give effect to it is currently being ushered through its parliament. READ HERE >> for some of the technical work undertaken by a University based research group. For the existing minimum wages and working conditions applicable to South African garment workers READ HERE >>.

The Federation of Kenya Employers (FKE) has rubbished the 5% wage to the minimum wages, saying they were not consulted. They accused government of riding on Labour Day’s celebratory mood to slap employers with an additional wage bill, violating wage setting guidelines. In a statement the FKE said that increasing the cost of labour means that some companies may be tempted to relocate to countries where labour costs are more than half those of Kenya. It implied that the government’s announcement of 1 May 2018 to increase the minimum wage by 5% was in bad faith, considering that President Uhuru Kenyatta had raised the wage by 17% the previous year. The FKE also expressed concern that there were a number of other developments that may also lead to an increase the cost of employing people. READ HERE >>

The South African Competition Tribunal has approved a merger between Bayer and Monsanto subject to a number of conditions. One of the conditions is a requirement that the merged entity to divest and sell Bayer’s South African cotton seed business. The conditions address competition concerns identified by the Commission in the market for the supply of GM cotton seeds as it would create a monopoly in South Africa. In terms of the agreement a trustee will be appointed to oversee the divestiture which will be to an independent third party. Divestiture will include distribution rights and other intellectual property rights owned or licensed to Bayer in South Africa. This is to ensure the development, production and sale of cotton in South Africa. This merger is part of the global transaction between Bayer and Monsanto, which has been notified in other jurisdictions such as the US, Russia, China and Brazil. READ HERE>>

The Ethiopian export sector failed to meet its target earnings of US$3.66 bn over the past nine months by securing exports of only US$2.1bn. This year’s performance has shown a slight improvement of 4.3% when compared with the preceding year’s nine-month report.
From the export revenues US$1.58bn was generated from agricultural commodities, US$331.5m by manufacturing and US$109.8m from mining. Political unrest and illegal trading activities were listed as reasons behind the failed target by the ministry. READ HERE >>
Its difficult to see what the precise economic effects are of Ethiopia's inability to reach the ambitious export targets that it has set for itself - unless, of course, its inability to earn the expected foreign currency has put some strains on its ability to service existing loans taken out / backed by the Federal government. These foreign exchange stresses could result raising the cost of future borrowings required to construct other industrial parks and any other associated industrial infrastructure needed to support existing / future investments

Value retailer Ackermans has opened its 700th store in the South African city of Rustenburg. Ackermans' operations director stated that the retailer intends to continue to open around 75 to 80 stores per year. Ackermans is a retailer selling everyday contemporary casual wear. It offers a range of mainstream fashion in clothing, footwear, homeware and accessories that targets the mass middle market. Ackermans is part of the Star group – it was originally part of the Pepkor group but was sold to Steinhoff in 2014. In its 2017 annual report the Star Group, which owns Ackermans advised that the retailer (then) had 655 stores (413,000m/2 of retail space) located in South Africa, Swaziland, Lesotho and Zambia, and employed around 8,000 people. The Star group’s other apparel and footwear focused retail store brands include: Dunns, John Craig, Pep, Refinery, Shoe City and Tekkie Town. As at 30 September 2017 the Star group had more than 4,600 stores in South Africa and in Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia and Swaziland; and more than 300 stores in the rest of Africa (Angola, Malawi, Mozambique, Nigeria, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe). READ HERE >>

Ghana’s Deputy Minister of Trade & Industry has accused the previous NDC government of reckless management which has resulted in the collapse of the country’s textile and apparel industry. He stated that there were only about two significant sector firms surviving and that all the rest have been converted into warehouses. He pointed out that one of the survivors was DTRT SEE HERE >> which employs around 3,000 people and exports garments to the US. The Minister appealed to Chinese investors to invest in Ghana’s textile and apparel industry. READ HERE >>

The Tanzania Agriculture Minister has announced the indicative price for cotton for the 2018/19 harvest season to be 1,100TSh (US$0.48) per kg. This is down from 1,200TSh (US$0.53) of the previous season. Apparently the decline in price is due to a global decline in the price of cotton. The Minister stated that much of the crop was sold at low prices because not much value add was done to it in Tanzania. He said: "It is from this backdrop that the government is emphasising industrial development to ensure that all the cotton produced in the country is consumed locally”. The Minister further advised that the government would pay 30bn TSh (US$13.2m) debt owed by farmers for the purchase of insecticides; and that in the 2019/20 cotton season farmers would be given free inputs. READ HERE >>

The US Ambassador to The Gambia recently presided over an African Growth & Opportunity Act (AGOA) workshop in Banjul. She used the opportunity to reaffirm the US government’s commitment to restoring and expanding its trade links with The Gambia. The workshop was organised in partnership with the Gambia Investment Export & Promotion Agency (GIEPA), and the US Agency for International Development (USAID). The Ambassador stated: “The two sectors that have the greatest immediate potential to benefit from AGOA in The Gambia are the fishing industry and the apparel industry. READ HERE >>


The Gambia exporting significant volumes of garments to the US! It would be interesting to see the reasoning underpinning this observation. [EDITOR: see the beginning of this newsletter for trade data that shows what textiles and apparel The Gambia has been exporting to the US and the EU.]

US Ambassadors and related diplomatic staff in many African states have played, and they mostly continue to do so, a vital role in promoting exports of African manufactured goods and other produce. However sometimes they make pronouncements, or force initiatives, which are divorced from economic reality. Many would do well in engaging with the development professionals in USAID (and USAID’s contractors) in order for them to ascertain what is possible and what is not. Too often have I seen USAID contractors drag business folk away from running their businesses, and bureaucrats from their government work, in order to attend workshops where unworkable initiatives are delivered. I am willing to be proved wrong – but I think there is little opportunity for The Gambia to develop a strong, high employment, export orientated textiles and apparel industry.

According to the Ethiopian Ministry of Industry the recently developed “National Cotton Development Strategy” (NCDS) recommended the transformation of the Ethiopian cotton production system to one that produces environmentally sustainable cotton. The idea of the workshop was to understand the global challenges for conventional cotton production, and the significance of sustainable cotton production in promoting efficiency and effectiveness in the cotton and textile sector. Hosting participants from various international and local sustainable cotton promoters, the workshop apparently facilitated discussions on sustainable Public Private Partnership platforms and other appropriate modalities for the effective promotion of sustainable cotton production at the national level. READ HERE >>
This press release contains useful statistics related to Ethiopian cotton production.
I would like a copy of Ethiopia’s National Cotton Development Strategy so I can publicise the ambitious goals of the Federal Government of Ethiopia related to the development of the crop - if anyone has a copy kindly forward it to me at:

The Shanghai-based Shangten Holding Group, a Chinese government owned company, has inaugurated a new garment factory (for a total cost of 54m Br (US$1.96m) in the Eastern Industry Zone (37km from Addis Ababa). A manager stated that the arrival of the company in Ethiopia is part of China’s “One Belt, One Road” initiative. The company started its set-up operations in November 2017 – it now employs 400 Ethiopians and 12 Chinese. The factory reports paying a maximum monthly wage of 1,000Br (US$36.41) to manual labourers. It reports that its rental is about US$100k per annum. All of the products from the factory are exported from Ethiopia – the first shipment of 30,000 sweaters (part of an order for 180 000) will leave at the end of June 2018 and is destined for Italy. READ HERE >>

The Tanzania Bureau of Standards (TBS) has destroyed 3 tons of used underpants, shoes and motorcycle helmets worth 32m TSh (US$14k) for failure to meet required standards. Speaking after the exercise the Quality Assurance officer from Tanzania Bureau of Standards (TBS) said apart from poor standards, that some of the goods were also burnt due to the Tanzania’s Law which bans importation of used underpants because of their contribution to skin infections. READ HERE >>

Tanzania recently retreated, after threats from the US administration that it would lose AGOA, and abandon ed measures that would have restricted the flow of worn garments into Tanzania. The Tanzania government (including those of Kenya and Uganda) do have other instruments that they can use to limit the import of worn clothing. One measure they could adopt would be the (draft) East African Community (EAC) standard (EAS 356:2016) relating to the import of worn clothing READ HERE >>

Officers of the Tanzania Revenue Authority (and EAC) customs officers could inspect more bales of imported worn clothing to ensure that the clothing falls into definition of “worn clothing”. Perhaps Tanzania (and the EAC) could follow the approach of US Customs & Border Protection which defines worn clothing as garments showing “signs of appreciable wear”. READ HERE >>

I guess that what is good enough to protect the US worn clothing market for members of the US's Secondary Materials & Recycled Textiles (SMART) association (this was the body that got the US government to review the AGOA status of select member states of the EAC because of their restrictions placed upon the import of worn clothing READ HERE >>) then similar measures are good enough for the EAC to protect it from illegitimate worn clothing imports from SMART members, and any other importer.


Last week's edition of the "African Cotton, Textiles & Apparel Monitor" (#8 of 8 May 2018) ran a news item related to an exposé by the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) organisation relating to animal cruelty on some South African mohair goat farms. The Managing Director of Mohair South Africa (SEE HERE>>), Deon Saayman, has now responded to some questions put to him by this newsletter. His response is as follows:
The Monitor: What is its formal response to the allegations and what do you intend to do in order to address the highly probelmatic issues raised?
Mohair SA: We are deeply shocked by these allegations. Much of the report and accompanying video is factually incorrect and a gross misrepresentation of our industry. That being said, we have identified isolated incidents shown in the video that are questionable practices and a full investigation was immediately launched after these reports surfaced.

Despite the report claiming animals were abused on 12 farms, we have been able to identify, from the video, two farms where some of the practices are being questioned. Mohair from these farms were immediately suspended and withdrawn from our mohair sale earlier this week. They are undergoing a full assessment, by an third-party auditor, as we speak. Once the audits have been completed further action will be considered based on the findings.

It is important to note that South Africa has approximately 1,000 mohair producing farms, of which about 700 are large enough to be considered commercial farms. Of this number, there were claims of 12 farms where animals were mistreated, and our investigation was able to identify two possible cases.

The well-being of every animal on every farm is of great importance to us as well as the 30,000 South Africans who are dependent on this industry for livelihood. A misleading report like this could have devastating effects on the industry as a whole. What the report doesn’t reflect is how both man and animal rely on each other for survival.
In addition to our own investigation and the ongoing audits, we have appointed a legal firm to under take a full investigation. With this report we would be able to expedite our investigation and ensure that all our producers adhere to our industry’s strict Sustainable Guidelines, preventing any questionable farming practices.


According to the Zimbabwe government the era of dumping sub-standard and counterfeit goods onto the Zimbabwean market is over. The Government believes that measures to protect the domestic market under the Consignment Based Conformity Assessment (CBCA) programme have started bearing positive results. Products covered under CBCA programme include food and agriculture, building products, petroleum and fuel, packaging material, electrical and electronic products, body care and health, automotive and transportation, toys, and, clothing and textile.

Curiously Zimbabwe has put CBCA restrictions on a product called “school uniforms” for which no customs tariff code exists – so its hard to see how this is managed. The list is specified of goods covered can be seen in "Statutory Instrument" (SI) 122 of 2017.

According to a report Bureau Veritas has rejected more than 200m units of sub-standard goods that were destined for Zimbabwe since 2016. In 2017 alone more than 1,800 importers had their imports, covering up to 305m product units, verified through the CBCA programme before being imported into Zimbabwe. READ HERE >> and HERE >>

While it is important that governments use legislation to protect their consumers from sub-standard product governments often use “standards” to protect local manufacturers. In Zimbabwe’s case the Statutory Instruments were also put in place to complement tariff measures in order to cushion some of its local industries from intense import competition, and also address the negative balance of payments position.

Zimbabwe’s efforts to protect its local industries have recently taken another turn. The country has now made application for a special dispensation on some of its outstanding tariff commitments under Southern African Development Community (SADC) Protocol on Trade – i.e. Zimbabwe now does not wish to reduce customs tariffs down to zero on 995 tariff lines spread accross the whiole tariff book. The country has an obligation to phase down duties - but it now states that a new arrangement, if agreed to by SADC, will maintain the applicable duties for a period of five years after which there will be a linear phase down over three years. This is not the first time Zimbabwe has requested an exemption from the SADC trade protocol. In 2011 Zimbabwe applied for and obtained derogation from the SADC Committee of Ministers of Trade from implementing some aspects of its SADC tariff phase-down obligations. The tariff phase down was supposed to resume immediately thereafter and be completed in 2014. This did not happen. Instead Zimbabwe introduced a surtax on select products – a surtax is defined as a duty payable on importation of selected goods … generally set at a rate of 25% of the value for duty purposes.

As has been advised in previous editions of this newsletter the South African (SA) government has (in November 2017) formally given notice to Zimbabwe that it will terminate (in November 2018) the SA-Zimbabwe bilateral trade agreement. This revised agreement has allowed Zimbabwean apparel manufacturers to export apparel to the SA free of customs duties and without quota restrictions (although it has been impossible to obtain from South African Revenue Services a SA government gazette notice which actually provides for these revised customs duty rates).
The US' African Growth & Opportunity Act (AGOA) has been of great benefit to many apparel producing sub-Saharan African states - it has driven investment, promoted many sensible reforms and has created large numbers of jobs. In my view it has performed far better that a number of other trade preference programmes that have / continue to cover a number of sub-Saharan African economies.

Of course understanding why there are export ups and downs requires a country case by case analysis - something best done jointly by an academic together with a textile and
apparel industry specialist. Such analysis would touch upon many issues including the following:
  • the nature of the original architecture of AGOA which only, until the 2015 extension to 2025, allowed for short-term extensions of the 3rd country fabric provision
  • the fact that some AGOA eligible countries lost their AGOA privileges for short period of time (e.g. Swaziland and Madagascar); or that some states had their AGOA status threatened (e.g. Kenya and Lesotho)
  • the fact that some countries have experienced bouts of political instability (e.g. Kenya; and to some extent Lesotho and Ethiopia)
  • the fact that some countries' currencies have lost, and in cases then gained, value against the US$ (e.g. South Africa, Swaziland and Lesotho)
  • the fact that many country manufacturers are now starting to use AGOA in a more tactical way. Originally many manufacturers tended to focus on the export of cotton rich knit garments (which had low US Most Favoured Nation (MFN) customs duties) but now they concentrate on making knit garments with man-made fiber fabrics (which garments generally have high MFN US duty rates - in Lesotho's general basket of knit exports between 28.2 - 32% ad valorem).
  • the long-term technical assistant support offered by the United States' Agency for International Development's (USAID) various trade hubs (there were 3 trade hubs - West Africa, East Africa and Southern Africa); and some other USAID funded trade support initiatives.

"Ethiopia’s Emerging Apparel Industry: Options for Better Business and Women’s Empowerment in a Frontier Market". Margaux Yost and Lauren Shields. May 2017. Paris, Frrance. Working paper prepared for the BSRS' "Her Project".

Synopsis: Ethiopia’s apparel industry shows potential to become a global sourcing hub. Export earnings have grown from US$60mto US$160m in the past five years, and the government has a target to reach US$1bn by 2020. Government support, low costs of production, and preferential trade status with European and US markets have all contributed to this growth. While the growing industry represents opportunities for business as well as for industrialisation, job creation, and inclusive economic growth, intentional action is required to realize this potential. As in previous sourcing destinations, significant challenges exist that could limit both economic and social gains. These challenges range from uncertainty in the political landscape to the impact on workers’ motivation of low wages and limited opportunities for advancement. Women in particular, who represent 85-90% of the workforce and may be entering formal jobs for the first time, stand to benefit from the growth of the industry but also face particular challenges that must be taken into account by all parties. Where it is within their scope to act, both buyers and suppliers have a vested interest in ensuring that Ethiopia becomes and remains a sustainable sourcing destination. Creating an enabling and high-performing working environment for women workers is critical to that vision. Now is the time to embed good practice and “get it right” from the beginning. Doing so will increase the wellbeing of workers, the stability of communities, and the lasting productivity of suppliers. The full main paper can be found here HERE >> and the Executive Summary HERE >>.
A Comprehensive Study on Social Accountability Requirements for Ethiopian Apparel Industry”. Israel Mezgebe, Chandra Shekar. 2017. Bahir Dar. Ethiopian Institute of Textile & Fashion Technology at Bahir Dar University.
Synopsis: A growing number of companies within the garment industry outsource the manufacturing of clothing to independent suppliers around the world, since the wages for garment workers differs largely between countries. This has contributed to a global price rise. Within the garment industry the production orders are often given at very short notice, which makes it hard for producers to make any long-term planning. In response to this, the producers use a lot of compulsory overtime and a flexible workforce in order to be able to produce according to the changing orders and low prices. There is always someplace where clothing still can be made more cheaply -and in this race for low prices the conditions of the workers and their environment are often disregarded. The full paper can be found HERE>>. EDITOR NOTE: Ignore the "Abstract" to this paper - its clearly got mixed up in the publication process.
  • Africa Occupational Safety & Health (A-OSH) - Trade Show - 22-24 May 2018. Johannesburg, South Africa. For more information:
  • Source Africa - Trade Show - 20-21 June 2018. Cape Town, South Africa. For more information:
  • 14th Symposium of the Southern & East Africa Cotton Forum - Workshop - 4-6 July 2018. Harare, Zimbabwe. For more information: SEACF
  • Apparel Sourcing New York - Trade Show - 23-25 July 2018. New York, United States. For more information:
  • Sourcing at Magic - Trade Show - 12-15 August 2018. Las Vegas, United States. For more information:
  • International Textile Manufacturers' Federation (ITMF) - Annual Conference - 7-9 September 2018. Nairobi, Kenya. For more information:
  • Origin Africa – Trade Show - 9-11 September 2018. Nairobi, Kenya. For more information:
  • Apparel Sourcing Paris - Trade Show - 17-20 September 2018. Paris, France. For more information:
  • Africa Sourcing & Fashion Week (ASFW) - Trade Show - 1-4 October 2018. Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. For more information:
  • Textile Exchange Sustainability Conference - Annual Conference - 22-24 October 2018. Milan, Italy. For more Information:
  • Destination Africa - Trade Show - 17-19 November 2018. Cairo, Egypt. For more information:
  • ATF Expo - Trade Show - 20-23 November 2018. Cape Town, South Africa. For more information:
  • 77th Plenary Meeting - International Cotton Advisory Committee (ICAC) - Annual Conference - 2-7 December 2018. Abidjan, Ivory Coast. For more information:
Looking for staff? Want to engage a consultant? Have equipment to sell? Do you need 2nd hand machinery? Have a tender? For a limited period the "African Cotton, Textiles & Apparel Monitor" will publish (free of charge) select classified advertisements from firms / development organisations active in the Africa's crop to shop value chain. Adverts limited to 50 words / 300 characters (and may include a mini logo).
about Mark Bennett - Editor
"The African Cotton, Textiles & Apparel Monitor"
I have almost 30 years' experience working in Africa's cotton, textiles and apparel value chain. Initially I was, for 15 years, a sector trade unionist in South Africa; then, from 2004 onwards, I worked as a development consultant for various Southern / Eastern African governments, and domestic private sectors. In my development activities I have been engaged by private sector foundations, and by DFID and USAID funded contractors. I find it rewarding creating development interventions that help cotton, textiles and apparel stakeholders to better processes, improve productivity, increase sales and add investment. See my full CV at Devex or LinkedIn.
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