The Government of Sweden and the International Trade Centre (ITC) have announced a new programme aimed at strengthening the international competitiveness of textiles and clothing producers in four Arab states-Egypt, Jordan, Morocco and Tunisia. This is expected to boost exports, create jobs and raise incomes across the Middle East and North Africa region.
The project ‘Strengthening the International Competitiveness of the Textile and Clothing Sector in selected Middle East and North African Countries’ (MENATEX), is funded with SEK 42 million ($4.63 million) from the Swedish government and will be implemented by the Geneva based ITC in close collaboration with the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida), said a press release from ITC.
Global trade in textiles and clothing stood at $751 billion in 2017, of which the four target countries of the programme accounted for $10.8 billion. With $3.7 billion in exports, Morocco leads the four, followed by Egypt ($2.8 billion), Tunisia ($2.6 billion) and Jordan ($1.7 billion). The vast majority of products from Morocco and Tunisia go to the European Union, while Egypt and Jordan’s top export destination is the United States. To expand and diversify exports, the four countries will have to complement their existing production base and market connections with new products and markets and upgraded customer service.
The three-year programme is intended to support the four Arab countries to build sustainable export-oriented sectors with increased sales to traditional markets in Europe and North America along with new markets in sub-Saharan Africa. Creating long-term and better-paid work, especially for women and young people, is a key goal of the project. Another goal will be to strengthen regional economic integration among the four countries under the Agadir Agreement, a 14-year old trade accord between the same four countries.
To achieve lasting improvements in the sector’s export competitiveness, the project will focus on bolstering the capacities of national institutions such as textile and clothing business associations and training centres to help better support local businesses to export. This will involve improving internal management processes and service portfolio development. The project will also work directly with domestic enterprises, providing advisory services, training and coaching designed to help firms move up the value chain from cutting and sewing to fabric sourcing, product and design development and branding.
“We are pleased to start this innovative programme in cooperation with ITC and the four beneficiary countries in Northern Africa,” said Eva Smedberg, head of the MENA unit at Sida. “It is an excellent example of donor coordination and alignment that will bring important synergies to achieve lasting changes in this crucial sector. MENATEX will also ensure that companies will be able to turn social and environmental sustainability challenges into opportunities, which is a priority for Sweden.”