The East Africa Trade and Investment Hub has entered into a partnership agreement with the American Apparel & Footwear Association to ensure U.S. brands and retailers’ goods are manufactured in accordance with best-in-class business practices and operations in East Africa.
The agreement, signed by the Hub and AAFA outside the African Pavilion at the Magic trade show in Las Vegas, 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.
“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,” said Rick Helfenbein, president and chief executive officer of the American Apparel & Footwear Association. “We are pleased to partner with the USAID East Africa Trade and Investment Hub on this important initiative.”
Working in tandem with East African governments to raise industry standards, promote job creation and increased trade and investment will ensure a positive result for trading partners, the groups said.
AAFA represents 1,000 well-known brands that contribute $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. AAFA said it 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, which last year was 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 will also 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.
AAFA 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 signed on in 2014 among USAID, AAFA and the African Cotton & Textile Industries Federation to expand trade and investment linkages between the U.S. and the sub-Saharan Africa cotton, textile and apparel sector.