Habtamu Liben, Zheng Kaijun ADDIS ABABA (Xinhua) --
After she finished grade 10, Selamawit Kegna’s parents started
looking for a groom for their daughter because they thought
since she was not a good student she would not be able to
Then a friend told the teen how she
could earn her own livelihood.
A Chinese-owned jeans factory in the
Eastern Industry Zone on the outskirts of capital Addis Ababa
was looking for workers.
“I came and applied for a job at
once,” the 19-year-old said, sitting in front of a sewing
machine in the factory.
After three weeks of training, Kegna
was officially recruited. Now as a seamer, she earns 1,500 to
2,000 Ethiopian birr (ETB) (55 to 73 U.S. dollars) a month, and
is looking forward to a totally different life.
Kegna is proud that the pairs of jeans
she and her colleagues produce not only serve the Ethiopian
market but can be also exported to other African countries and
“I often get bonuses, which really
encourages me to work better,” she said.
The factory employs over 300 young
people who are mostly from nearby areas, with the majority of
them being women.
“I have a savings account now and
deposit 700 ETB (26 dollars) every month. I am also paying my
own expenses,” she said. “The way things are going, I will be
able to buy a sewing machine after a year and half. Then I may
return to my hometown and open my own shop. I can make uniforms
for schoolchildren and clothes for other people.”
Kegna also plans to continue her
education once she saves enough.
The Chinese-built industrial zone, the
first of its kind in Ethiopia, has been attracting young people
from nearby agricultural towns.
While Ethiopia is one of the fastest
growing economies in Africa, it is still one of the poorest,
with a per-capita income of 783 dollars a year, according to the
World Bank. The Chinese factories in the industrial zone not
only provide jobs for young Ethiopians, but also give them the
perception of a career.
After getting a degree in economics
from Mekelle University, 22-year-old Seble Assefa looked for a
white-collar job. But though she spent a year trying to land a
suitable job, she couldn’t find anything. It made her join
Shanghai Textile’s factory in the industrial zone as a temp.
Initially, she received a monthly
salary of 1,500 ETB (about 55 dollars), which was lower than the
average for a graduate. Still she thought herself lucky,
considering that she had been unemployed for almost a year since
In two months, Assefa was promoted as
a line supervisor and today, she is in charge of 60 workers. Her
salary has gone up by 1,000 ETB (about 37 dollars) a month and
she has more training opportunities.
“I learned one important thing
here—always strive for better opportunities,” she said. “I am no
longer looking for a job within my academic background. I am now
looking for further opportunities in the textile and garment
She thinks there is great potential in
the sector in Ethiopia. “God willing, I will have my own sewing
machine and shop in the near future,” she said.
Ethiopia’s textile and apparel
industry has experienced major developments in recent years,
thanks to the wide availability of raw materials, cheap labor
and low energy costs. Ethiopia wants to become a textile and
apparel hub in Africa, giving the sector top priority as it
strives to become a middle-income country by 2025.
For that, it envisages strengthening
cooperation with China.
The Chinese-built industrial zone,
inaugurated in 2010, currently hosts 83 factories. The
government frequently commends it as a cornerstone of the
transition from an agriculture-based economy into an industrial
powerhouse in the next 10 years.
Chinese investment plays an
indispensable role in Ethiopia’s industrialization drive,
President Mulatu Teshome said when he visited the Eastern
Industry Zone in mid-August.
“A decade ago, the land the Eastern
Industry Zone currently lies on was just agricultural land. But
with hard work, it has become ... a showcase of high-quality
industrial factories in sectors such as pharmaceuticals, pulp
and textile,” Teshome said.
The industrial zone is a positive
impetus that is motivating Ethiopians to dream of a better
future, the president said. “I hope our local entrepreneurs will
learn from the success of the Eastern Industry Zone and take
this opportunity to enter into the manufacturing sector.”
reporters Zhao Zhuoyun and Wang Yanan also contributed to