Looking to boost cotton quality and exports, Egypt’s Ministry of Trade and Industry has signed a cooperation protocol with United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) and the Italian Development Cooperation.
The ministry said the two-year $1.72 million project aims to increase the added value of Egypt’s long and extra-long staple cotton, improve the performance of cotton farmers and producers, and maximize the role of institutions supporting cotton production.
The development comes as Africa gets renewed attention as a textile and apparel sourcing region after years of what the industry saw as untapped potential and the 2015 renewal of the African Growth & Opportunity Act (AGOA) U.S. trade preference program for 10 years. The AGOA preference program is expected to be in place until 2015, though the Trump administration has indicated it could seek amendments.
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The protocol to increase Egyptian cotton’s added value was signed on Wednesday by Egypt’s minister of trade and industry Tarek Kabil; Abdel Moneim el-Banna, minister of agriculture; Giovanna Ceglie, director of the UNIDO’s regional office in Egypt, and Felice Longobardi, head of the AICS.
“The textile industry assumes a significant importance to the national economy, comprising 3 percent of the GDP and employing nearly third of Egypt’s workforce,” Kabil said. “Textile exports are estimated at $2.6 billion, accounting for 15 percent of Egypt’s non-oil exports, and tops the government’s agenda as one of the key targeted sectors in the trade ministry’s strategy for industrial development.”
However, while Egyptian cotton is prized for its premium extra-long staple fiber, production and exports have been on the decline.
Textile and apparel imports into the U.S. from Egypt were worth $363.38 million for the first five months of the year, a decrease of 14.5% from the same period year earlier, according the Commerce Department’s Office of Textiles & Apparel.
The project will be implemented over two years and will include building the capacity of 400 cotton farmers and 15 private companies in the textile business, improving the skills of 300 workers and offering training programs for 300 technical students.
This month, the U.S. Agency for International Development East Africa Trade and Investment Hub signed a grant with Kenya to create 2,000 full-time jobs and provide more than 100,000 hours in skills development for young workers in the apparel industry.
The signing of the grant also marked the kick-off of the East Africa Cotton, Textile and Apparel Workforce Development Initiative, a partnership between the Hub and the American Apparel & Footwear Association to ensure U.S. brands and retailers goods are manufactured in accordance with “best business practices and operations” in East Africa, according to USAID.
There’s also been investment activity of late in Ethiopia from U.S. and Asian companies.