Jan 06 - Ethiopia's growing garment manufacturing sector has industry players calling the country the Bangladesh of Africa. Andrew Potter reports.
It wasn't so long ago Ethiopia's economy was in a terrible state with the country's population ravaged by famine. But its economic resurgence has been strong, as factories like Almeda Textile in Adwa show. Here they make garments which are going around the globe. Mehari Aregai is acting CEO of the company. (SOUNDBITE) (Amharic) MEHARI WOLD AREGAI, ACTING CEO OF ALMEDA TEXTILE FACTORY SAYING: "Previously most of our clients were from many parts of Europe and America. But now, currently, we are also producing garments for H&M from Sweden, the second biggest garment retailer. We also produce in large quantities for a local market." Ethiopia has ambitious targets, which it's meeting. It's now Africa's fifth biggest economy, bigger than neighbouring Kenya. The textile industry is trying to boost its exports ten fold in the next three years, and is being helped as emerging economies like Bangladesh lose their shine with investors. (SOUNDBITE) (Amharic) MEHARI WOLD AREGAI, ACTING CEO OF ALMEDA TEXTILE FACTORY SAYING: "This factory is a good source of revenue for the government. In the last five years, Almeda Textile has submitted 11.8 million dollars of revenue to the government. We have become a good source of income for the government." 95 percent of the 4800 people who work here are women. (SOUNDBITE) (Tigrinya) ZEWDU BIRHAN, EMPLOYEE, ALMEDA TEXTILE COMPANY SAYING: "I am educating myself with the salary I earn from this. With the rest, I can afford to buy my own food, clothing and pay rent. My dream is to work here in this factory's finance department when I graduate." There are problems for Ethiopia to address. Growth is falling, then there's the concern over a deepening divide between rich and poor. But it's hoped Ethiopia can help Africa become a hub for manufacturing, as companies turn away from Asian sites tainted by accusations of human exploitation and poor pay.