China Is Turning Ethiopia Into a Giant Fast-Fashion Factory at Risk of Civil War

(This facility, built on farmland, is the largest of four new textile and apparel centers. Photographer: Nichole Sobecki for Bloomberg Businessweek)

We know since the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), was implemented in the mid 90s there has been a massive shift to overseas apparel production resulting in destroyed communities, bankrupt businesses and tens of thousands of unemployed people. But to add insult to injury, is Ethiopia letting China throw another low-cost curve ball into the apparel production chain?

Bloomberg writer Bill Donahue writes: “We’ve arrived at a new moment for the global apparel industry. This drought-afflicted, landlocked country of 100 million on the Horn of Africa is transforming itself into the lowest rung on the supply chain that pours out fast fashion and five-for-$12.99 tube socks. Lured by tax incentives, promises of infrastructure investment, and ultracheap labor, countries the Western world once outsourced production to, particularly China and Sri Lanka, are now the middlemen ramping up production here for Guess, Levi’s, H&M, and other labels. These industrialists like Ethiopia because the government wants them as much as they want cheap labor and tax breaks. The Hawassa Industrial Park’s inauguration is only the most recent part of a vast centralized scheme: Since 2014, Ethiopia has opened four giant, publicly owned industrial parks; it plans eight more by 2020.”

Clearing viable farmland once used to produce food to feed the region, these new fast fashion manufacturing complexes have displaced 500 subsistence farmers that are ethnically Sidama, a group that pulls little political weight.

“But their accusations of land grabs echo the Oromo’s. Urese Dinsa, a 69-year-old farmer and ex-chairman of the political ward where the park stands, says he was tricked by a promise of $37,000 and jobs for his children in exchange for leaving the 2.5-acre plot he’d farmed for 17 years. He actually received $6,000, which was more than many other farmers got,” writes Donahue.

Ethiopian Investment Commission’s Belachew Mekuria says “The plan is to create a total of 2 million jobs in manufacturing by the end of 2025…we are an agrarian nation now, but that will change.”

This article should get you fired up.

Read here on Bloomberg.