The hub will host a pavilion located at the New York Hilton, showcasing the country’s strengths in footwear manufacturing. The organization strives to boost trade in East Africa, providing jobs and industry to untapped areas rich with resources—especially for footwear.
“We have six key factories that are a good representation of Ethiopia shoe-making capabilities that can compete not only in the U.S. but around the world,” said Jordan Saliman, footwear export advisor and USAID contractor.
Saliman says the investments in developing, teaching and training workers are evident in the final product. “We have come a long way… but, like any business, have to be fully involved,” he said.
Here, Saliman shares the need-to-know facts about sourcing in Ethiopia and why it is the right time for U.S. brands to consider the country.
What are the trade and cost advantages to sourcing footwear in East Africa?
Saliman: Because of the AGOA Trade Agreement with Africa and the U.S. all footwear and leather products come into the U.S. duty free. Cargo container shipments from Addis Ababa Ethiopia go to Djibouti and then up the Suez Canal to the U.S. East Coast in 28 days. Average cost per pair for freight is around $0.77.
Most factories can produce initial orders in 60-75 days once all initial components are secured. Replenishment orders can be shipped in 60 days. In 2016, Ethiopia exported to the U.S. in excess of 1.6 million pairs of footwear, with a gain over 2015 of 25.9%. This year they are on track to produce and ship in excess of over 2.5 million pairs of footwear to the U.S.
Why is it a good time for the East Africa Trade and Investment Hub to focus on footwear, and particularly the U.S.?
Saliman: The East Africa Trade and Investment Hub is a USAID Project. The Hub is involved in all aspects of economic development for East Africa based out of Kenya. Our responsibility is to develop export and trading opportunities for Africa and our international partners, build opportunities for employment in our trade and development sectors…especially leather and footwear.
Because of the uncertainty in global sourcing, Africa and especially Ethiopia represent an opportunity for development. AGOA duty free represents a major opportunity for imports to the U.S. Ethiopia has the 10th largest cattle herds in the world…and they are number one in Africa. [The country offers] timely deliveries to the U.S. of quality goods and with great value and timely service.
Also, a number of established factories are being modernized and becoming socially compliant. Several new factories have been developed over the last five years that are owned and managed by the Chinese with Ethiopian workers. These factories are enjoying major growth and expansion with major U.S. brands. Those companies being Caleres, Marc Fisher Group, Harbor Imports and others. Currently these companies are manufacturing footwear for the U.S. under 10 different brands.