The multi-million Pula textile sub-sector of Botswana Exporters and Manufacturers Association (BEMA) has started the implementation of a long term strategy.
The strategy was approved by government early this year, to make the local clothing and apparel industry viable and sustainable.
The textile sector has put in place a short term action plan which will pave the way for the full scale roll out of long term textile strategy. The action plan is undertaken by newly formed Botswana Textile and Clothing Association, who will set up a secretariat and device modalities for the implementation of the long term strategy and other housekeeping issues. The action plan, expected to take 12 months, is the first phase of the long term strategy. The Executive Director of BEMA Stembile Tawengwa told The Patriot on Sunday that although they are still reviewing the Special Support Programme for the Textile and Clothing Sector (SPP), which was extended to the industry for 12 months by government between November 2013 and November 2014, the roll out is on-going.
In the same period, the sector only gobbled P12.5 million from the total government advance of P20 539 200 million. Sources in the industry said the textile sector has approached government to persuade the ministry of trade to allow them to keep the remaining balance to use in the roll out of the long term strategy. Tawengwa confirmed that they plan to approach government with a request to use the funds to establish structures that will ensure smooth implementation of the long term strategy. However she was quick to point out that they will not be seeking new funding or some form of government intervention. "There are areas in the strategy that still need assistance going forward, like the establishment of a suitable training institution for the sector. It is still work in progress," she said.
She said during the 12 months of the special support programme, 38 companies registered and were assisted, which resulted with 2 913 workers benefitting. However she said they are yet to determine how many new employees among the whole group were. Tawengwa said in the on-going evaluation of the SSP they have made interesting discoveries in the duration of the support programme. She said in some instances, companies submitted names of workers with qualifications from different areas, or even over qualified for jobs they were doing. "We are yet to establish if this was due to lack of suitable employment or passion for textile industry," she said, adding that at the end of the review exercise a report will be submitted to the ministry of trade and industry.
In an earlier interview, the Chairman of the Textile and Apparel sector of BEMA, Fazul Zahir, expressed concern about the reluctance by companies to come forward and register for assistance. "But you must understand there are restrictions on the minimum number of workers, their wages and Ipelegeng policies apply," he said. Zahir said his company, Premier Clothing, had benefitted and increased staff by atleast 10%. "It may not be much but we have created more jobs and increased production," he said.
The special support programme, which started in November 2013, was intended to save jobs and sustain production ahead of the introduction of a new long term strategy. The roll out of the new strategy at the end of 2014 is ongoing. The announcement of the SSP was made by the Director of Industrial Affairs Keganele Malikongwa October last year. The support programme was in the form of a wage subsidy for citizen employees only and beneficiary companies had to have a minimum employment level of 10 workers and/ or exporting their products.
Earlier statistics showed that the special support for textile and clothing industry was by end of February extended to 21 small, medium and large scale textile companies from around the country. The grants ensured re-employment of 996 (October 2013), 1009 (November 2013), 936 (December 2013) and 451 (January 2014) employees . The total amount was P801, 460.00
Textile industry stakeholders met in March 2014 where they were informed about the full details of the approved long term national strategy to revive the sector, whose implementation started in November 2014. At a seminar to launch the strategy to stakeholders in Mogoditshane it was revealed that lack of training and poor work ethics are some of the major challenges in the textile industry.
Due to the global economic down turn of 2008 the textile sector faced serious financial challenges, which threatened to push it to total collapse. To cushion the sector from the eminent retrenchments, government created a Special Financial Support Programme-the Stimulus Package which assisted companies with payment of employee salaries during the recession. Findings from the monitoring exercise (in March 2011) carried out on firms receiving grants in the Special Support Programme for the Textile and Clothing Sector (SSP) revealed that large firms account for 67.9% of total employment; medium scale 18.9% while 13.2% of employees were in the micro and small scale firms.
Government has in the past expressed commitment to saving jobs by supporting the textile industry which is a sector that could create jobs. According to the eligibility criteria, companies seeking financial assistance had to offer a wage subsidy for citizen employees only, and will be expected to submit copies of their registration of incorporation or business registration certificate. Businesses will be expected to submit copies of their tax clearance or exemption certificate and must meet the minimum wage standard, and proof of operation and viability report/ financial management.
The ambitious strategy set out the major aim as to develop a competitive and sustainable textile and clothing sector. The strategy document said once fully implemented, the strategy will result in employment contribution ranging from the current 21% to 42% over the next 3-5 years, and manufacturing export earnings increasing from current 56% to double over the same period due to the envisaged FDI drive.