The European Business Council for Africa

14 June 2023, 11:00–12:30

The global fashion and apparel industry is often associated with environmental degradation, waste, pollution, and human rights and labour issues across the value chain. The EU aims to transition towards a circular model not to only address the negative impacts caused by the existing linear system, but also promote a more resilient and inclusive fashion industry that takes into account human wellbeing. The recent Strategy for Sustainable and Circular Textiles is an EU initiative to move towards a greener and more circular textile sector. In practice, it includes an increasing set of sustainability-linked standards and requirements for businesses outside the EU to access the EU Single Market.

Africa’s thriving textiles industry is pivoted towards the international market, including the EU and creates significant jobs. Yet, most suppliers are i) stuck in low-added value activities - i.e. apparel assembly, and struggle moving towards higher value addition activities like textiles manufacturing or design; and ii) have limited negotiating power over buyers or larger suppliers/investors to engage in greater value addition. This can undermine African countries’ industrialisation objectives.

In this context, what does the changing policy landscape in the EU for a green and circular economy mean for exports from a country like Kenya as it seeks to fulfil its ambitions for industrialisation? Where are some of the main opportunities and challenges for textile businesses? What lessons can be drawn from other countries such as Ethiopia? How can EU-Kenya cooperation in this area be designed to achieve the objectives of the circular economy as well as economic development?

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