On February 21, the East Africa Trade and Investment Hub entered into a partnership agreement with the American Apparel & Footwear Association to ensure best-in-class manufacturing of goods destined for the U.S. from East Africa. The Hub's Chief of Party, Juan Estrada-Valle and and Rick Helfenbein, President and CEO of the American Apparel & Footwear Association signed the agreement outside the African Pavilion at the MAGIC trade show in Las Vegas, Nevada.
The agreement launches the East Africa Cotton, Textile and Apparel Initiative to establish sustainable workforce development programs and institutionalize environmental, social, labor and worker safety best practices in the region. Working in tandem with East African governments to raise industry standards, promote job creation, and increased trade and investment will ensure a win-win for trading partners.
The American Apparel & Footwear Association represents 1,000 world famous brands and contributes to $361 billion in annual U.S. retail sales. In turn, U.S. apparel, footwear, travel goods and textile manufacturing deals are driving urban employment in East Africa. The Association is committed to best-in-class businesses practices, including innovative worker safety programs and effective labor and environmental standards.
U.S. retailers and East African businesses will both benefit from the initiative. The Hub will work through the Initiative to help East African governments and private sector entities institutionalize the best practices and standards that American apparel, footwear, and travel good sourcing companies require. The Hub expects to support the creation of 45,000 jobs across Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Uganda in the first three years of the initiative and create jobs and further growth in the U.S. apparel, footwear, and travel goods sector.
East Africa is establishing itself as a key sourcing destination for global apparel, footwear, and travel goods buyers. The African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), which was recently renewed to 2025, and provides up to 35 percent in duty savings for eligible countries exporting to the U.S., is a major incentive. The Hub’s new initiative will further cement U.S. and East African business partnerships under the Act.
The Hub, in addition to working with the Association on best practices, will work with governments and private sector organizations to establish and launch workforce development programs aimed at equipping young East African men and women with the necessary technical and life skills to join the workforce in the apparel, footwear and travel goods industries. The Hub will also assist governments to enact policies and regulations to guarantee access to reliable electricity in export processing zones and to uphold commitments under the East African Community Protocol, which calls for the free movement of goods, services, and capital across the Partner States.
The American Apparel & Footwear Association will represent the industry and actively engage in advocacy activities before country governments in East Africa and lead private sector engagement. It will also strengthen U.S. manufacturing and support U.S. jobs and economic growth for its brands while encouraging companies and their suppliers to develop sustainable operations in East Africa.
The Initiative is intended to deepen and complement a Memorandum Of Understanding (MOU) signed on January 17, 2014, among USAID, the American Apparel & Footwear Association and the African Cotton & Textile Industries Federation (ACTIF) to expand trade and investment linkages between the U.S. and the sub-Saharan Africa cotton, textile and apparel sector.
“The American apparel, footwear, and travel goods industry has an interest in ensuring that U.S. brands and goods are manufactured in accordance with best-in-class practices. We are pleased to partner with the USAID East Africa Trade and Investment Hub on this important initiative,” said Rick Helfenbein, president and CEO of the American Apparel & Footwear Association.