One of the highlights of being at USAID is seeing the faces of the people who are helped by our work.  Our staff in Africa regularly send photos that show refugees receiving much-needed food aid, farmers applying modern technologies to grow better crops, and HIV-positive individuals who have a second shot at life thanks to anti-retroviral medicine.

Today’s photos from East Africa are a little different.  These photos show cotton, sleek styles, bright patterns, and even a wedding dress.


In Mauritius, a small island off the eastern coast of Madagascar, USAID supported the Origin Africa Fiber to Fashion Event as part of an ongoing effort to encourage trade, support sustainable economic growth, and reduce poverty in the region.  The event featured a runway show of collections from African fashion designers, while also providing a platform for improving trade opportunities for the hundreds of producers, traders and buyers who attended.

Africa’s colorful prints and textures were on display.  The competition asked designers to create collections with commercial appeal using local fabrics and facilities.  Twelve designers representing countries from sub-Saharan Africa and the Indian Ocean as well as three fashion students from Mauritius showed their collections before a panel of international judges.  The winning designer was Fikirte Addis, whose designs are intended to reflect the everyday lives of her fellow Ethiopians and her vibrant culture.  She will be featured at Africa Fashion Week New York in July 2011.

Related events included a business symposium on eco-friendly manufacturing practices, new product development related to cotton fabric, and the integration of design and marketing. An advisory board of business leaders from the U.S. apparel sector also participated in activities to boost commercial activity, generating business deals worth over $7.8 million.

The event was part of USAID’s Competitiveness and Trade Expansion Program to address barriers and promote opportunities for African businesses in over 15 countries in east and central Africa.  Currently, Africa contributes a small portion of the goods traded globally.  By building the capacity and increasing the competitiveness of African goods, USAID promotes broad-based, sustainable economic growth that is necessary to accelerate development and eradicate poverty in Africa.