International Development Research Centre (IDRC) and Trade Facilitation Office Canada (TFO Canada)

Promoting Specialty Textile and Fabrics in Least Developed Countries (LDCs): Market entry studies for Bangladesh, Cambodia, Ethiopia, Lesotho, Haiti, Madagascar and Uganda


This note provides a rationale for a partnership between the Trade Facilitation Office Canada (TFO Canada)’s Canadian Market Access and Capacity Building Program and IDRC’s Employment and Growth Program, to commission research to provide evidence on market studies on specialty textile and fabrics focusing on seven LDCs (Bangladesh, Cambodia, Ethiopia, Lesotho, Haiti, Madagascar and Uganda).


Background: A win-win for LDCs in trade

Nearly half the population of the 48 least developed countries (LDCs) – some 400 million people – remain in extreme poverty, compared with less than a quarter in any other developing country. Hence, these are the countries where shortfalls from the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are greatest, where improvement has been slowest, and where the barriers to further progress are highest. More than two thirds of people in LDCs live in rural areas, where poverty is also most widespread and deepest, and infrastructure and social provision most lacking. Rural economic diversification varies widely between LDCs. Only a few have passed beyond the stage in which non-farm activities relate to agriculture and have limited urban linkages. Women comprise half the rural workforce in LDCs, but face serious constraints on realizing their productive potential, slowing rural transformation. The 2030 Agenda both highlights the need and provides the opportunity for a new approach to rural development centred on poverty-oriented structural transformation to generate higher incomes backed by higher productivity. In rural areas, this means upgrading agriculture, developing viable non-farm activities, and fully exploiting the synergies between the two, through appropriately designed and sequenced efforts to achieve the SDGs. According to the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) latest report on LDCs (2015), infrastructure investment intensive in labour and local procurement can stimulate demand and promote the transformation, aided by parallel efforts to strengthen local supply response. Innovative approaches to trade and cross-border investment could make a substantial contribution. Producers from LDCs have yet to benefit fully from trade to provide economic opportunities for their populations. While Canada already offers LDCs duty-free and quota-free market access to promote trade, many other supply-side obstacles as well as challenges on the demand-side for these exports to take place.

The initiative

This initiative represents a specific, targeted support to researchers in LDCs to generate evidence about the business environment in which exports of textiles and fabrics from their countries can take place. The focus market of destination will be Canada. Individual consultants from LDCs with business knowledge in the sector (specialty textiles and fabrics) will prepare market entry studies. A key element is the promotion of speciality textiles and fabrics from LDCs, which demonstrate local and unique skills with potential for trade in international markets and employment generation. This local knowledge appeals to an export niche market, and can ultimately lead to formation of sustainable business relationship. The premise is that exports from LDCs are feasible under a “small volume and high added value per unit” model.

IDRC and TFO Canada strategic interests

Trade Facilitation Office Canada (TFO Canada), supported by Global Affairs Canada, is part of Canada’s Aid for Trade effort to assists developing countries, especially LDCs, in engaging with global markets by strengthening their trade capacity and trade-related infrastructures. TFO Canada is currently implementing the Canadian Market Access and Capacity Building Services program, which has a Least Developed country (LDC) component where this project belongs. TFO Canada and IDRC have formed a common understanding to collaborate in the first stage (2016) to identify market studies and individual exporters, assessing and market testing their products. Other phases will follow with product development or design, and market linkages with identified buyers and distributors in Canada.

The International Development Research Centre (IDRC) is a Crown Corporation established by the Canadian Parliament in 1970. IDRC supports researchers and innovators in developing countries to generate new ideas to advance knowledge that can make a real difference in the lives of the poor and disadvantaged people. IDRC’s wide, established networks of developing-country researchers brings an in-depth knowledge of country contexts, allowing IDRC to broker links between knowledge, implementation and policy.

Since the late 1990s, IDRC has supported hundreds of researchers working on trade and poverty in more than 70 countries throughout regional and global networks of researchers. In Latin America, IDRC has funded research networks such as the Latin American Trade Network (LATN) and the MERCO-NET. In Africa, the International Lawyers and Economists against Poverty (ILEAP), and, in Asia, the Asia-Pacific Research and Training Network on Trade (ARTNET). At the global level, IDRC has funded the Global Trade Alert and research networks with trade components – such as the Global Development Network (GDN) or the Partnership for Economic Policy (PEP). More recently, IDRC has funded the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) that examines early entrepreneurial activities of small entrepreneurs, including their barriers to entering export markets. GEM includes hundreds of researchers in more than 80 countries.

The Trade Facilitation Office Canada (TFO Canada) is a Canadian non-governmental, non-profit organisation, founded in 1980. It promotes sustainable economic development through trade information, advice and contact, facilitating access to the Canadian marketplace and sharing Canadian trade expertise for the benefit of smaller exporters from developing and emerging countries. Each year TFO Canada delivers trade related services and capacity building projects that benefit thousands of exporters from nearly 100 client countries in Africa, Asia, the Caribbean, Latin America and the Middle East.

Objectives and implementation

The main objective of this initiative is to promote LDC exports on specialty textile and fabrics to Canada. This will be achieved through a strategic partnership between TFO Canada and IDRC to provide market entry studies to overcome information gaps for businesses in their trade and investment with Canada. TFO Canada will provide the expertise on the entry side into Canada, while IDRC will mobilize its network of LDC-based researchers. TFO Canada has carefully selected a list of seven LDCs, with the possibility that the exercise will be replicated in other LDCs, if the results of the current project warrant this. The partnership will share and discuss the findings with relevant policy makers and practitioners, including major international NGOs, private sector representatives, among other institutions. IDRC will manage a stand-alone competitive process to select the researchers in consultation with TFO Canada. IDRC will provide support in selection and review of top candidates, monitoring and evaluation of selected candidate. IDRC will do the contracting directly with the selected candidate. IDRC, in collaboration with TFO Canada, will do the monitoring and evaluation of the selected candidate.

Competitive process: The call would be for 5-7 papers by LDC nationals, based in LDCs, Canada or abroad, funded as small research grants. The individuals will submit an expression of interest composed by (a) an annotated outline, following the terms of reference (ToRs) below, and (b) a CV.  IDRC and TFO Canada will select the entry, and, if time permits, they will involve external reviewers.

Terms of Reference: See attached. They are to be circulated in English and French, and will be part of the small grant contracts to individuals.

FYI – Please circulate among young scholars who would be interested in making such a submission. Cambodians studying or residing overseas are also eligible. The deadline is Sunday March 6 (see terms attached).