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US Provides Aid Towards COMESA Garment Centre

Published date:
Wednesday, 27 April 2005

The US Government has committed Sh2.6 billion to support textile exporters under the African Growth and Opportunity Act (Agoa).

Through the US Agency for International Development (USAid), the US government will build a manufacturing training centre in Kenya to cater for eight African countries within the Comesa region.

Speaking in Nairobi yesterday during a one-day seminar, US top officials led by Greg Howe, the USAid Regional Sector Advisor, said the centre would help build competitiveness among players to enable them compete in an aggressive global textile trade.

"We as a government will support the initiative and we have already identified a 25 acre plot in the Athi River-based Export Processing Zones (EPZ) to host the centre," said Trade and Industry minister Mukhisa Kituyi,.

Kituyi, who presided over the workshop meant to compile details of the proposed center, said lack of competitiveness in the sector was a major concern.

The minister said 2,000 textile workers at the EPZs lose their jobs every month to stiff competition in the global textile trade.

He further revealed that in the last four months, six EPZ companies have relocated to China and India, the two countries that are tipped to benefit from free trade in textiles. "We are facing a crisis in the sector and the Government is holding meetings with industry players to identify areas that we can intervene," he said.

Though the full effect of the abolition of a global quotas regime on January 1 are yet to be felt, there are fears that more jobs could be lost in coming months.

Already, most companies have scaled down their operations as a result of these concerns.

Kituyi, however, said the poor road network, inefficient port services and slow custom clearance procedure are affecting trade at the free zones.

"We are holding discussions as a Government to try and resolve these issues because the reforms suggested are not working as fast as we expected," Kituyi said.

Exports to the US under Agoa have helped expand production in the free zones where over 30,000 jobs have been created in the last four years.

Value of exports to the US market has also increased from Sh4 billion in 2001 to Sh17 billion last year.

A feasibility study conducted by the US-Africa Trade and Aid Link Corporation for USAid indicates that the whole supply chain in the textile industry within Comesa countries was inefficient.

"The eight Agoa eligible countries are currently unable to produce technical, fashionable and high quality garments due to the low level of technical expertise," says the report presented by Trevor Little, a professor of textile and apparel management at a US university.

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