U.S. Senator Chris Coons (D-Del.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on African Affairs, today toured Ecosandals, a company co-founded by Delaware native Matt Meyer in the Nairobi neighborhood of Korogocho.
"As we shift the U.S. mentality toward Africa from aid to trade, local businesses like Ecosandals are the perfect example of how to create good, quality jobs, and I'm so proud a Delawarean helped to found this company," Senator Coons said. "It was a pleasure to visit Ecosandals today, and to talk with Matt and some of the sandal-makers who are deeply invested in the success of this innovative company. This is a sustainable, replicable model of how to create jobs, improve lives and spur economic growth in Kenya and beyond."
Ecosandals creates footwear from the rubber of used car tires and other scrap materials collected from the streets of East Africa. The company, owned and operated by the sandal-makers in collaboration with outside investors, provides dozens of quality jobs to local residents. Delaware native Matt Meyer, who currently serves as Ecosandals' CEO, was inspired to start the company in 1995 after studying abroad as a college student in Kenya. The company now sells sandals around the world and employs 40 residents of Korogocho, a poor neighborhood of Nairobi with high rates of crime and disease.
The African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), passed by the Congress in 2000, helps Ecosandals and similar companies export their products to customers in the United States. Senator Coons co-sponsored bipartisan legislation in 2011 to extend AGOA's third-party fabric provision, which allows African apparel --makers to import thread and fabric. He also worked with Senators Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and John Boozman (R-Ark.) on legislation introduced in March to strengthen the trade relationship further and help create American jobs by increasing U.S. exports to Africa.