US programme to help train 2,000 Kenyan youth on clothes making

Employees of the New Wide Garments factories situated at the Export Processing Zone in Athi River goes about their work after reporting back to their working station following a two days strike. (Photo: Peterson Githaiga/Standard)

United States of America has signed a grant that will help train 2,000 Kenyan youth in manufacturing of clothing.

The programme sponsored by America’s international development assistance agency USAid will establish seven training centres around the country whose graduates will then be placed in garment-making firms.

An estimated 4,000 candidates will be evaluated for consideration into the programme.

“Not only does this private sector approach directly link trained at-risk youth to jobs, the leadership from Kenya’s Ministry of Industry, Trade and Cooperatives makes the model sustainable,” said USAid Kenya and East Africa Acting Mission Director Tina Dooley-Jones.

Quality of clothing items has restricted how much US outlets can buy from Kenya, which informed the partnership entered into by USAid and Generation Programme Kenya, a local subsidiary of McKinsey Social Initiative.

The partnership will ensure US brands and retailers’ goods are manufactured in accordance with optimum business practices and operations.

Higher production standards would translate into improved exports of apparels to the US, to exploit the unrestricted market access as envisaged in the African Growth and Opportunity Act.

Thousands of clothes are manufactured in Kenya for the US markets in firms operating within the Export Processing Zones. Annual sales to the US are estimated at Sh50 billion, a figure the Government says is too small.

State House Spokesman Manoah Esipisu said in an update that the target is to raise the exports six-fold to Sh300 billion a year.

Last year, Kenya received a similar grant to improve human capacity and knowledge in manufacturing to boost exports.

US Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Linda Thomas-Greenfield has said her government is seeking to help African manufacturers improve the quality of their products.

This, she said, will ensure they meet the required standards for the American market and help the continent tap into the recently-renewed trade agreement.

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