Tigray War Could Put Ethiopian Textile Industry at Risk Amid looming US Sanctions


The armed conflict in Ethiopia’s Tigray region is threatening to put the country’s textile industry in jeopardy. At the moment, Ethiopia is one of few countries that enjoy duty-free exports to the US. This has allowed its textile industry to boom in recent years, providing jobs and livelihoods for a lot of Ethiopians.

But as the war in Tigray rages on, all this could come crashing down. The US is mauling imposing sanctions on Ethiopia, including the suspension of duty-free exports from the horn of the African nation.

Washington Concerns Over Human Right Abuses in Tigray

The United States has expressed concern over growing reports of human rights abuses in the Tigray region. According to the UN, both sides in this conflict may have committed war crimes. Ethiopia however recently expelled all UN aid workers from the region and has since placed a communication blockade.

It’s therefore very difficult to know what exactly is going on there. But the US is still worried that if both sides don’t come to a ceasefire, the humanitarian crisis will worsen by the day.

As of now, over 2 million people have been displaced by the conflict and thousands have been killed. The UN also notes that millions in Tigray are facing starvation and hunger.

The threat of US Sanctions and its Possible Impact

The US has said that it is ready to issue sanctions against the Ethiopian government and members of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front or TPLF. Washington is hoping that the threat of sanctions will push these sides to the table in a bid to negotiate a peaceful resolution to the conflict.

However, this is the first time the United States is considering broad-range sanctions against Ethiopia as a state. Before that, the US was only threatening sanctions against individuals within the Addis Ababa government and those in the TPLF. If indeed broad sanctions against Ethiopia are enforced, it could have a huge impact on the country’s economy.

Ethiopia’s Textile Industry

There is very little information about the Ethiopian textile industry. However, according to the Ethiopian Chamber of Commerce, over 65 major textile companies have opened operations in the country. These companies almost exclusively exported to the United States.

The plan by the Ethiopian government is to increase textile exports to $30 Billion by 2030. But there is still a long way to go. As of now, total exports are around $145 Million. Massive investments in the industry have however been made.

The State for example has issued licenses to over 175 new textile manufacturers. Ethiopia is also building a series of industrial parks all over the country and boosting infrastructure to attract more investment.

But the political instability in Tigray is difficult to ignore. As we speak, there are reports ethnic militias have already joined the conflict to support a full assault by the Ethiopian army. Experts warn that this could create an all-out ethnic conflict that could bring Ethiopia to the brink of disaster. But the government in Addis Ababa says it won’t come to this.

Photo: Pixabay

About Nyambura Tabitha

Tabitha Nyambura is a seasoned Kenyan journalist with years of experience in digital publishing. Her focus is on politics and the economy. She has worked as a freelance journalist for ten years and continues to bring interesting stories that matter to readers all across East Africa.