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Research programme on inclusive growth in the Ethiopian apparel export sector receives approximately 10 million DKK

The research programme ’Decent Work and GVC-based Industrialization in Ethiopia’, which is led by professor (MSO) Lindsay Whitfield from Roskilde University, has received the grant from Danida.
Lindsay Whitfield - portræt
Professor (MSO) Lindsay Whitfield is centre leader of Centre of African Economies. Photo: Eva Lykke Jørgensen, RUC Kommunikation & Presse


Sub-Saharan African governments are looking for sectors that can drive inclusive growth in the context of large youth populations, high under- and unemployment, and previous growth trajectories that did not create enough jobs or catalyze economic transformation.

Asia’s and particularly China’s dominance in global apparel exports is set to decline, and at the same time, global apparel buyers are looking to Sub-Saharan countries as the last ‘cheap labor’ frontier for labor-intensive apparel production.

The shift of apparel production to Sub-Saharan Africa could be a win-win situation for global buyers and African governments, firms and workers: finding new low cost sourcing locations, and spurring inclusive industrialization and growth in Sub-Saharan countries where manufacturing sectors are small. Yet, the broader development opportunities available in the first wave of apparel production outsourcing have declined due to changes in the global economy, which have culminated in a ‘supplier squeeze’.

The research programme ’Decent Work and GVC-based Industrialization in Ethiopia’ (EthApparel), which is led by professor (MSO) Lindsay Whitfield from Roskilde University, has received 10,3 million DKK from Danida under the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark.

“The project EthApparel examines what can be learned from Ethiopia’s experience that could lead to better working conditions and higher wages for apparel workers in the context of ongoing changes in the globalized apparel industry and Ethiopian specificities,” says Lindsay Whitfield.

Ethiopia is one of the newest global apparel sourcing location, and thus its experience has broader relevance for understanding the possibilities and limitations of apparel-based industrialization in the twenty-first century.

The overall objective is to analyze the drivers of, potential for and obstacles to inclusive growth and industrialization and decent work in the Ethiopian apparel export sector. The project will be the first to examine concomitantly the three scales of global buyers, supplier firms, and workers, as well as the agency of these actors and how their interactions produce specific outcomes.