International Partnerships

Ethical Fashion Initiative: Job creation and micro enterprises development

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This fully EU-funded 4-year project is the second phase of a project launched in Mali and Burkina Faso, located in the Sahel region, to support the economic development of their artisanal sector. 

The Sahel region is mainly rural and vulnerable to natural disasters. Poverty and insecurity are endemic and generating important migration flows. One of the main natural resources of the region is cotton and the high-quality handmade cotton textiles produced in Mali and Burkina Faso are in great demand on the international fashion and interior design market.

In this context, the Ethical Fashion Initiative (EFI) was launched in 2016, to allow the International Trade Centre’s (ITC) EFI team to pursue the organisation and sustainable development work it had already started with Malian and Burkinabe weaver craftsmen under the first phase of the project, and further harness the potential of these countries’ craft textile sector.

Key information

Total budget
EUR 10 000 000.00
EU contribution
EUR 10 000 000.00
December 2016 to December 2020
Implementing organisation
International Trade Center (ITC) – Ethical Fashion Initiative team (EFI)
Funding instrument
EU Emergency Trust Fund for Africa


The project’s main objective is to contribute to the reduction of poverty and consequently curb migration flows and encourage returns, by supporting micro-entrepreneurs, creating fair jobs, and enhancing the employability of vulnerable groups (mainly women and young people) through professional training in the artisanal sector, one of Mali’s and Burkina Faso’s economic pillars.
By enhancing the value chain of weaving (from cotton to transformed product), the project additionally aims at improving the social status and revenues of local craftsmen, and thanks to a partnership with Lai Momo, an Italian development organisation, the project also encourages the return of trained migrants to Mali and Burkina Faso.


The project has yielded the following results for the artisanal sector:

  • 3,400 jobs created
  • 3,400 people supported to develop income-generating economic activities
  • 25 micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) supported
  • 1,150 people benefitting from professional training and/or skills development courses
  • 200% increase in revenue
  • 100% reliability - in terms of quality and delivery time - in both traditional and organic cotton value chains

In addition, specific actions were taken to curb migration flows:

  • 500 migrants assisted to settle
  • 250 returning migrants benefitting from reintegration assistance
  • 5050 migrants assisted in total