ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia

Demka Textile and Investment PLC, a brand new Turkish textile manufacturing factory, is mulling ways of starting production amid the COVID-19 pandemic, which had delayed its operation, said a company official.  

Construction of the textile manufacturing plant, located 28 kilometers (17.3 miles) southwest of Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa in the town of Sebeta, was completed in 2019.

Abdulmenan Sherif, a Turkish-educated business administration director, told Anadolu Agency that the company had brought “state-of-the-art integrated textile manufacturing technology and a globally renowned textile brand and supply chain to the Ethiopian textile industry.”

”Unlike many foreign companies, we decided not to borrow from banks in the country, which badly needs cash reserves for its mega projects,” Sherif added. 

Ready to produce

According to Sherif, the manufacturing plant, which is capable of producing 220 tons of garments for local and global markets annually, was ready to start production.

Some 90% of the production will be shipped to the US, Germany, France and the UK through the well-established supply chain formed by the Istanbul-based owner of the plant, Demka Textile, he noted.

“Due to the company’s global reputation, we had already received ample orders from different countries,” he said. “Most of the orders were registered before the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic.”

Impacts of COVID-19

The coronavirus pandemic, recurring violent unrest that has hit Sebeta since 2015 and a delayed power connection have taken their toll on the timely completion of the construction and production of the plant, Sherif said.

“We are now fully ready to begin production. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which has constricted the movement of Turkish textile experts [needed to operate the plant] and goods, we are unable to begin production.’’

Nonetheless, according to the findings of a seminar and survey conducted by the International Labour Organization (ILO) in early April, the pandemic had already negatively impacted the Ethiopian textile and garment industry.

The research states that export-oriented textile factories had been receiving less or no demand from global fashion brands due to the pandemic.

‘’This, in turn, has led some factories to close down their shades; 58% of the manufacturers are willing to re-purpose production towards COVID-19 response goods,” the ILO noted, adding that 54% of the surveyed companies expect a 20% decline in revenue in 2020.

Corporate responsibility and business

According to Sherif, the company, which is well aware of the challenges of the current global textile market, was contemplating ways of beginning production and adjusting to the realities.

“We think that we can begin production with the orders at hand while following COVID-19 prevention rules,” he noted.

However, there is one unresolved issue, he said.

‘’The Health Bureau of Oromia regional state had asked us to make one of our shades [portion of the plant] a coronavirus treatment center,” he said. “As a socially responsible company, we have agreed to their request.”

Sherif noted that the company was engaged in deliberations with regional authorities on devising a working framework that could be beneficial to all parties.

The company plans to employ some 2,500 Ethiopians in the first phase of its operation, which will increase with the expansion of the plant.

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