Wednesday, August 21, 2013


Ethiopian shoe companies offer it all – fine-dress, casual, and sport footwear. Because of its fine leather and commitment to top quality, Ethiopia has recently become a sourcing destination for international buyers looking for high-end shoes. In one year, Ethiopian shoe exports through the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) rose from US $630,000 in 2011 to nearly US $7 million in 2012.

The USAID East Africa Trade Hub began working in Ethiopian footwear in 2012. In just over a year, they facilitated over US $1.5 million in sales to the U.S. The Trade Hub accomplished this through a combination of technical assistance, such as trainings on how to meet the technical specifications required by U.S. companies, and market connections made possible through AGOA.

In early 2013, the Ethiopian Leather Industries Association (ELIA) partnered with the Trade Hub to showcase their top-quality shoes at the MAGIC Sourcing Show in Las Vegas. Positioned in the Trade Hub’s Origin Africa booth, ELIA members presented their footwear to over 50 potential clients. The multi-billion-dollar retailer Gap is interested, so are Orvis and Skechers Footwear. Harbor Imports is already on board, currently sourcing over $80,000 a month in exports from Peacock Footwear, an ELIA member.

Tikur Abbay, another ELIA member, is a thriving Ethiopian footwear company. The core of their production is for the regional market – particularly military shoes for Uganda, South Sudan and Rwanda. Still, Tikur Abbay Marketing and Sales Manager Yelet Sesay, says that exporting through AGOA is important to their business.

“It [export through AGOA] enhances our experience, helps us to specialize and improves our reputation.”

Export through AGOA is a steady, high-volume business. Tikur Abbay is currently exporting to the large shoe retailer, Bass.

Export demand drives the need for more workers –which in turn increases wages. The average salary for a Tikur Abbay factory worker is US $80 a month -- twice the pay of other local shoe companies. Tikur Abbay also provides transportation and medical care.  Staff retention is high.

“Footwear in Ethiopia has huge potential – value per pair of Ethiopia shoes is high,” says Ethiopian footwear industry expert, Tewodros Wossenyeleh.

The Trade Hub couldn’t agree more. Look for Ethiopian Footwear at the next MAGIC trade show. The Trade Hub’s Origin Africa booth will have the shoes proudly on display.