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 Egypt, Jordan, Morocco and Tunisia, which promises to boost exports, create jobs and raise incomes across the Middle East and North Africa region.

The three-year programme is intended to support the four 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, their 14-year old trade accord.

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.

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 ($4.63m) from the Swedish government and will be implemented by the Geneva-based ITC in close collaboration with the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA).

‘This new programme will further cement ITC’s partnership with Sida in a sector that is crucial for trade and job creation in developing countries, particularly for women and youth,’ said ITC Executive Director Arancha González in a release copied to Nwwshhana.com.gh. ‘It is particularly satisfying that the new initiative will build on ITC support for the sector in Egypt, Morocco, and Tunisia through the Swiss-financed Global Textile programme (GTEX), while allowing us to start working in Jordan.’

‘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.’

‘We are delighted and grateful that the Swedish government decided to join in this initiative,’ said Dr. Slim Feriani, Tunisia’s Minister of Industry and SMEs. ‘Partnerships such as these increase the chances of success. The additional funds will help us to further increase the competitiveness of our textile and clothing industrial sector and start penetrating new markets.’

‘We are looking forward to working with our Swedish and Swiss partners on the path towards boosting exports, investments and jobs in this crucial sector for our economy and ultimate goal of inclusive and sustainable economic and social development,’ he added.

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.

A regional component of the programme will foster cooperation across the four parties to the Agadir Agreement to share good practices, notably on how the textiles and clothing sector can drive rural job creation. It will also carry out activities such as trade fair participation and marketing campaigns to promote the MENA region as an attractive garment-sourcing destination for Europe and North America due to proximity and short shipping times.

The project will also explore regional trade opportunities in Sub-Saharan Africa, which offers potential for companies to extend their brands and to supply specialized products such as protective wear for the extractive industry.

The MENATEX project aligns with several of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), including contributing to women’s full and effective participation in business, trade, and equal opportunities (SDG 5), and the integration of developing-country small and medium-sized enterprises into global value chains and markets (SDG 9).

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