For Ethiopia, the belief is: if you build it, they will come.
The country inaugurated its largest eco-industrial park in the city of Hawassa last week as it works to position itself for what it hopes will be an influx of interest in manufacturing textiles and apparel there.
The 1.3 million-square-foot facility is located nearly 200 miles south of the country’s capital, Addis Ababa, and its eco-friendly offering is expected to drive international brands to the nation.
According to Ethiopia’s EBC news, 15 leading textile and garment companies from the U.S., China and Sri Lanka, plus six local companies, are already prepped to start operations in the park.
Once fully operational, Hawassa, designed and built by the China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation, is expected to employ 60,000 workers and generate $1 billion in export revenue.
A Zero Liquid Discharge program, which enables the recycling of 85 percent of sewerage disposal water, fulfilling international standards, will also be implemented at the park.
Ethiopia’s young labor force—reportedly some 45 million strong—means its potential for future production in the garment industry may be more appealing than in other countries where the work force is aging and fewer from the incoming generation are interested in working in textiles and apparel.
Arkebe Equbay, special advisor to Ethiopia’s prime minister, said the park can attract Chinese firms looking beyond their own shores to set up production to curb rising costs.
The country’s growth is also on an upswing.
“As annual manufacturing growth currently is 25 percent, in 10 years time, it’s projected to increase its GDP share by four fold and its share in exports to 50 percent,” Equbay told Xinhua.
Hawassa Industrial Park is expected to set the tone for further industrial park developments in other parts of the country, including Dire, Dawa, Kombolcha, Adama and Mekele, EBC said.
The move marks a turn from Hawassa’s bad press about its not-so-eco-friendly ways.
Last year, high levels of chemicals and alkaline were found in Hawassa Lake, causing a rise in temperature and pH and threatening the local environment. Waste water from neighboring textile plants was being released into the lake, turning the waters blue or black with a strong odor, but the city has reportedly been working to quell the pollution problem since.