By comparison, 60 percent of EU trade is within the EU The key for Egypt and African manufacturers to develop is to source within the continent, and take advantage of regional free trade agreements, as less than 11 percent of trade is inter-regional. By comparison, 60 percent of EU trade is within the EU. Tunisian and Egyptian trade is a stark example. Tunisia imports only 1.3 percent of textile and clothing imports from Egypt, compared to 19 percent from France, and 23 percent from Italy. Tunisia exported just 664 tonnes to Egypt in 2016, while Egypt exported 5,024 tonnes to Tunisia, according to the Confederation of Tunisian Citizen Enterprises (CONECT). Under Egypt’s Vision 2025, it aims to create one million jobs in the textile and garment industry, train some 750,000 workers, supervisors and managers, and attract $13.5bn in local and foreign investment. It’s a tall order, but by October, Egypt’s garment sector had already grown 14 percent this year, ahead of projected growth forecasts and is expected to reach $1.4bn, a return to pre-crisis levels. Still the country faces a Catch-22. The sector needs to mechanise to better compete with the likes of Turkey and move away from being a "cut and sew" hub to have more complicated pieces that can fetch higher prices. That however involves more automated production and would require fewer employees, and Egypt needs more people to be employed. One aim of the government is to bolster cotton production, known as “white gold” as a result of its high-quality long-thread count. Egyptian cotton is nearly double the price of ordinary cotton. There would seem to be room to grown: only 10 percent of all cotton used in Egypt is locally sourced and there have been problems with fake Egyptian cotton being sold around the world. “It was all over the world in terms of fakery,” said Wael Olam, chairman of the Cotton Egypt Association.
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