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Factory Profile: Egypt’s Nile Holding Emphasizes Efficiency and Ethics

Buyers are regaining their confidence in sourcing in Egypt after revolutions in the country stirred up concern, and Nile Holding is poised to pick up on it.

The private, family-owned company based in Cairo, owns several textile companies, including Nile Clothing, Egypt Clothing Company, Maytex and Technotex.

As more eyes land on Africa as a sourcing region, the continent could benefit big from its existing trade privileges that aren’t parent of the terminally ill Trans-Pacific Partnership.

Egypt enjoys duty free trade with the United States under the Qualifying Industrial Zone (QIZ) program, which works as long as the goods destined for export to the U.S. contain 10.5% Israeli inputs.

The fact that TPP is all but officially dead, for Egypt, may be a win.

“It’s a huge opportunity for Egypt right now,” Ehab El-Zorba, senior vice president of Nile Holdings said during a factory visit. “QIZ is important to us as the survival of our industry. And it’s not going to be broken down. We believe it’s too strong for anything to happen to it, and it should give confidence for people to come to Egypt more.”

Through its various businesses, Nile Holdings specializes in woven bottoms and tailored clothing, making for companies like PVH and VF and brands like Levi’s, American Eagle, Express and Banana Republic.

At its Egypt Clothing Company four-factory unit facility in the industrial area of Helwan, the company’s 100 percent Egyptian workforce produces one million woven bottoms per month.

But what’s perhaps of greater note for companies interested in sourcing in Egypt but aren’t sure about the country’s standards, Nile Holding prioritizes quality and efficiency without sacrificing safety and worker well-being.

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When asked about compliance, El-Zorba said, “We take it very seriously. My brother and I are American educated, my father has lived in the U.S. for many years, so we’re able to be serious about social compliance.

“We have a zero tolerance policy. We don’t allow anything to be red flagged on our end,” he added. “You won’t be taken seriously if you don’t.”

The company has made a habit of maintaining a one-to-one relationship, across all of its factories. El-Zorba started in his role with the business spending the better part of two years working the production lines to better understand the process and the workers’ needs. A closer relationship with the labor offers cues when things could go wrong, which allows the company to avoid them altogether at times.

“We don’t want a traditional chain of command,” El-Zorba said, explaining that owners need to be clear on the workers’ needs in order to maintain a process that’s both efficient, safe and will keep workers content and feeling valued. “It’s to make sure we’re always above the bar when it comes to social compliance and assurance.”

When Egypt had its two near back-to-back revolutions, many U.S. and EU buyers picked up and left the business they were doing in the country. Now, buyers are starting to come around again, asking Nile Holding’s factories to do first costing and samples.

“We have heard some department stores say they’re looking again at Egypt, but it has to be big to be worth it,” El-Zorba said.