Tue, 30 Nov 2021

HAWASSA, Ethiopia, Oct. 17 (Xinhua) -- Ayalnesh Baweke, 23, a Human Resources Management staff at NASA Garments Private Limited Company (PLC), a local textile firm situated in Ethiopia's flagship Hawassa Industrial Park (HIP) is feeling anxious about her future prospects.

Baweke's anxiety and that of tens of thousands of textiles and garment sector workers stems from warnings by the United States it could revoke Ethiopia's status under the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA).

AGOA is an initiative established by the world's largest economy in 2000 to grant special access to around 6,500 products produced in Sub-Saharan African countries. The initiative has been extended several times, with the latest end date being 2025. Ethiopia joined the AGOA initiative in 2001.

The U.S. is threatening to revoke Ethiopia's AGOA privileges, due to its accusations of Ethiopia's severe human rights abuses in the east African country's strife-torn northern region, Tigray.

Baweke, who feels lucky to have found a job at NASA Garments PLC soon after graduating from university and in her hometown, fears her good fortunes may not last long.

NASA Garments PLC, which has 1,400 employees' exports 98 percent of its products to the U.S. through the AGOA framework.

"I already had plans for further studies at master's degree level, while being employed in the current job," Baweke told Xinhua.

"I also help out monetarily my family (made of five family members). It would be depressing being dependent on my family again, if I lose the job," she said.

Baweke's is only one of an estimated 35,000 textile and garment sector employees, more than 90 percent of whom are young women working for a total of 23 firms based in HIP.

The Hawassa Industrial Park, which the Ethiopian government considers as its flagship industrial park in its ambition to transform the country as the manufacturing hub of the African continent by the year 2025, was built by China's Civil Engineering Construction Corporation (CCECC) and completed back in 2016 in just nine months of construction period.

In the last Ethiopian Fiscal Year, 2020/2021, which ended on July 8, Ethiopia earned around 144 million U.S. dollars export revenues from textile and garment products manufactured in HIP, with the vast majority of exports being to the U.S. market.

While, Ethiopia had been member of the AGOA initiative for two decades, it's only in the last few years, the east African country has been able to substantially tap its export potential with the construction of around a dozen Chinese-built industrial parks, attracting firms from across the globe as well as international clothing brands which started outsourcing their products from Ethiopia.

Hibret Lemma, CEO of the Hawassa Industrial Park Investors Association, fears Ethiopia's hard-earned manufacturing center status in Africa could be undone if Ethiopia's possible revocation from AGOA materializes.

"There are 23 companies represented from around the globe including from India, Sri Lanka, Belgium, France, Ethiopia, China, Indonesia and Thailand represented in HIP. The industrial park has created 30,000 direct employment opportunities and 60,000 indirect employment opportunities," Lemma told visiting journalists on Tuesday.

"Ninety-six percent of our exports goes to the U.S. so any impact on AGOA would impact the investment activities and employment in HIP," he further said.

The U.S. government is expected to announce a decision on whether Ethiopia will continue to enjoy AGOA privileges within two weeks.

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