Time for textiles

Baitshepi Sekgweng
TIME TO SHINE: Textile players have a big opportunity

Minister of Trade and Industry, Mmusi Kgafela has given the textile industry a boot up the bum, challenging the sector to up its game and focus on producing high quality goods.

Speaking at a capacity building workshop organised by Botswana Exporters and Manufacturers Association (BEMA) in Gaborone last week, Kgafela assured the industry of his government’s support.

Held under the theme, ‘Intervention Geared Towards Promoting Sustainable Textile Business Growth’ the workshop was designed to address key issues in the industry.

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The day-long event came on the back of the Schools Uniform Statutory Instrument, enforced by government on 1st January following concerns within the textile sector over the procurement of school uniforms from outside of the country despite the main market being govt schools.

Calling on industry players to make the most on the restriction of importing school uniforms, Kgafela said, “We [Ministry of Trade and Industry] exist to ensure the sector moves on the right trajectory without any impediment.

“I urge the sector to make full use of the current instrument, ensure consistent supplies and quality standards; the success of this instrument depends on how well we each serve our respective roles. Focus on quality because that is when we can only be competitive.”

Time for textiles
PLEDGING SUPPORT: Minister Kgafela

As of 2020, Botswana’s textile imports stood at US$113 million (P1.5 billion) while exports trailed way behind at US$14 million (P186 million).

The majority of imports were sourced from South Africa, with our southern neighbours responsible for 77 percent of in-coming textiles, while China and Germany accounted for 11 and 3 percent respectively.

Exports, on the other hand, were very much concentrated in Soutern Africa, with SA, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe emerging as the driving forces.

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However, chatting to Voice Money, BEMA Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Mmantlha Sankoloba revealed they were keen to change this dynamic.

As well as the 2.3 million people that make up the local market, they also have their eye on the African continent as they look to benefit from AFCTA (African Continental Free Trade Area).

“We had three priority areas which we wanted to engage the government on and the first one was funding. We have come to realise most of our small scale members have challenges of finances because when you look at the model of SMEs in the textile industry, you will realise that they are facing difficulties in accessing funds,” said Sankoloba, who was slightly critical of the lack of support CEDA has given the industry.

“We don’t see the likes of CEDA rallying behind the government’s efforts by setting aside certain amounts of money for the textile industry players as specific funding.”

With cost of production high and raw materials expensive, BEMA is hopeful Kgafela’s Ministry will look into issues of ease of doing business and consider incentives such as tax exemptions and rebates.

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“These are some of the priority areas that came out of the workshop,” she explained.

The CEO added that since their primary focus is on small scale tailors, they have agreed to embark on a strategy of ‘clustering’.

“Since the costs of buying materials is high we have agreed on conditional clustering, where they can be temporary clusters where they are to buy a particular raw material because as groups the more material you buy means there are better chances of negotiating prices. Further it is much cheaper than when they buy in smaller quantities as individual tailors.

These are the resolutions we are submitting to the ministry and surely it will help guiding with how government can support the industry,” declared an optimistic Sankoloba, adding these were exciting times bursting with potential for the local textile industry.

Time for textiles
LOOKING FORWARD: Mmantlha Sankoloba
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