It was all eyes on Africa at Sourcing at Magic this week, and the American Apparel and Footwear Association is set on supporting trade with the continent.
At the show Tuesday, AAFA and the USAID East Africa Trade and Investment Hub signed a memorandum of understanding to foster growth in business and trade between East Africa and the U.S.
“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,” AAFA president and CEO Rick Helfenbein said.
The partnership marks the beginning of the East Africa Cotton, Textile and Apparel Initiative, which will establish programs to encourage sustainable workforce development, and firmly put in place environmental, social, labor and worker safety best practices in the region. It will also back efforts like guaranteeing reliable access to electricity in export processing zones.
“We want to support you in every way that is humanly possible and try and help you, sustainability wise, avoid some of the pitfalls other countries have faced,” Helfenbein said to the leadership from USAID. Both parties will collaborate with governments in East African countries to improve industry standards, promote job creation and increase trade and investment in the region.
The East Africa Trade Hub expects the joint efforts will help support the creation of 45,000 jobs across Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda in the first three years of the initiative—which is also expected to further growth in the U.S. apparel and footwear sectors.
Buyers interested in sourcing from Africa have paid especially close attention to the East Africa regions as big companies like PVH and VF have already begun making inroads there, garnering the region some added attention. Now the region has firmly established itself as a key sourcing destination for apparel and footwear.