Bottom Up! Ethiopia: Sustainable Cotton and Textiles

Opportunities and Challenges

Ethiopia: A new Textile hub?

With a youthful population of 110 million, rapid development, low labour costs and a business-friendly tax-system, Ethiopia looks like a contender to be a new textile hub for European business.

  • Foreign Direct Investment in Ethiopia’s textile and garment sector is growing and so is its yield. Major brands such as Ikea, H&M, PVH and Decathlon are a few of their notable customers, but European buyers of all sizes are taking notice.

    However Ethiopia comes with its own challenges in terms of commerce, labour and the environement.

  • Commercial

    Both importing needed materials to and exporting finished products from Ethiopia to European markets can be complicated and time consuming. 

    Inefficiency, due to an untrained workforce is high, and as of 2019 this often translates into a product with a low quality and a long lead-time.

  • Labour

    A key concern amongst stakeholders and potential buyers are issues around workers rights. Particularly worries about the lack of freedom of association and the living wage. 

    Reported wages are sometimes as low as 26 USD, which is far below the World Bank poverty line. Bottom Up! hopes to improve labour conditions by providing training and knowledge on social and labour standards among participating companies.

  • Environment

    Cotton farming and textile production are highly resource-intensive. Both can see massive waste of clean water. 

    Additionally cotton is often treated with hazardous pesticides that can damage the ecosystem, while waste water from the dyeing of textiles is a major source of pollution in many of the major textile producing countries.

About Bottom UP!

Bottom UP! Ethiopia

How do companies go about doing business in Ethiopia? What are the main challenges they face? Can they combine sourcing with their sustainability and ethical standards?

To answer these questions and offer options for European buyers to source ethically from Ethiopia, Solidaridad, Abtf's Cotton Made in Africa, the Danish Ethical Trading Initiative, and MVO Nederland have launched the EU-sponsored Bottom Up! Ethiopia development programme.

Bottom UP! is designed to help Ethiopian factories improve their environmental and ethical standards by developing sustainable and equitable production processes. It supports improving workers rights and work conditions and encourages the use of sustainably grown cotton through workshops, technical support, and awareness raising among European consumers. Bottom Up! works with 14 producers, 19,200 workers and 2,000 farmers to prevent a race to the bottom in Ethiopia. 

Bottom UP! will help European buyers transition ethically to Ethiopian sourcing by connecting them with Ethiopian business through trade missions and by educating them on the challenges and solutions through webinars and reports.

Upcoming Events

Connect with Bottom up!

Join our upcoming events to learn more and to connect with ethical producers in Ethiopia.

  • Trade Mission

    Join us for the Bottom Up! Ethiopia Trade Mission for a first-hand experience of the cotton and textile production in Ethiopia.

    Coming Soon

  • Webinars

    The Future of Sourcing from Africa – conditions for a successful textile supply chain from Ethiopia

    When: 13:00 - 14:30 CEST, 17 September 2020

    Annika Schwagerl, Fashion Director at European buying company Scan-Thor / Otto and Nursema Cill, Country Manager for Ethiopia will share their experiences working in the Ethiopian fashion and textile sector and their vision for the future of sourcing from Africa and establishing a value chain built on innovation and sustainable long-term collaboration.

    The webinar is organised by the Danish Ethical Trading Initiative together with the Bottom UP! partners and is open for garment and textile company representatives with an interest in sourcing from Ethiopia or Africa in general.

    Did you miss the Webinar? Contact us today to receive the recording via email.


Project Resources

Learn all about Bottom Up! and the Ethiopian textile industry.

  • Year One Highlights

    Bottom Up! Ethiopia completed its first year of operation in March 2020. The first year of the project saw much concrete progress made on the goals of Bottom Up!

    • The steering committee of Bottom Up! Kicked off the project with a baseline survey and gender gap analysis.
    • More than 250 farmers have gained access to improved cotton seed varieties, knapsack sprayers and personal protective equipment was provided to participating farmers.
    • Farmers, factories and ginneries were trained on good Agronomic practice (GAP), gender inclusivity, sustainable practices (integrated pest management (IPM), and fibre quality maximization. 
    • Textile mills were encouraged to adopt good health, safety and sustainability practices, including establishing fire-fighter teams, grievance teams, and health & safety committees. 
    • Training improved capacity management on leadership and occupational health and safety for producer union managers, farm and ginnery managers, and textile and garment managers.
    • Matchmaking was organised between farmers, textile mills & buyers to create a bridge to the European market. 
    • 50 European companies have so far actively engaged and participated in the B2B exchange activities organized under Bottom UP!
  • Reports

    Here you can access reports from the Bottom Up! partners


  • Company Profiles

    Want to learn more about the Ethiopian textile companies associated with the Bottom Up! programme? On the MVO Nederland FutureProof Circle you can read all about what makes them unique, what they produce, and how to get in touch.

    Check out the Profiles



Bottom UP! Ethiopia is funded by the EU and was developed as a collaboration between Abtf's Cotton Made in Africa , the Danish Ethical Trading Initiative, MVO Nederland and the Solidaridad Network..

Get in touch

For more information you can reach out to:

Contact Information

Isabelle Roger

International Programme Coordinator, Cotton

't Goylaan 15, 3525 AA Utrecht, The Netherlands