Ethiopia’s Apparel Industry Under Pressure Amidst Continuing Violence, Sanctions

Ethiopia’s Apparel Industry Under Pressure Amidst Continuing Violence, Sanctions

A worker at an assembly line at a shoe factory belonging to the Mohan Group in the area of Gelan, Ethiopia, in December 2019. Getty Images.

There were protests on the streets of Addis Ababa over the weekend, following an announcement from US Secretary of State, Anthony Blinken, that his country would become the first to impose sanctions on both Ethiopia and its opponents from the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF).

The parties have been fighting a war in Tigray since last November and reports of atrocities committed by both sides have prompted the US to take wide-ranging action, according to an African Business report.

Within the Tigray region, the already-troubled Mekelle Industrial Park has remained shuttered throughout the war, with suppliers for brands including H&M and Calzedonia halting operations for fear of workers’ safety. But by and large, the direct, immediate impact of the conflict on Ethiopia’s garment industry has been low and relatively contained, as the majority of manufacturing parks are based outside Tigray.

These sanctions, which target officials and military assistance, won’t necessarily impact the ability of global fashion brands to manufacture in Ethiopia, but the ongoing unrest, coupled with a second delay in holding parliamentary elections, is unlikely to inspire global retailers to invest more of their supply chain in a country that is seeing such an increase in volatility.

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