SA-Zim bilateral agreement in limbo

THE Zimbabwe Clothing Manufacturers’ Association (Zcma) has urged government to use the clothing industry as a driver of employment and economic growth, just like what other developing countries have done and succeeded.

BY MTHANDAZO NYONI

Zcma chairperson Jeremy Youmans told NewsDay Business that there was need for government to fully support the clothing and textile industry which employed over 35 000 people at the turn of the millennium.

Currently, the sector employs about 3 500 people.

“The local textile industry is under extreme distress. They export most of their products. This means that our industry needs to import more and more. We are the biggest value adder in the value chain and so allocations of forex to the clothing sector should have the biggest payback,” Youmans said.

“The value addition from cotton lint to garment is 940 %, which is huge. We need to maximise this as an industry and a country. Most other developing countries succeeded in using the clothing industry as a driver of employment and economic growth, but we are failing to prioritise support in proportion to the payback and benefits that will be created,” he said.

Youmans said there was still no progress on the resolution of Zimbabwe-South Africa Bi-Lateral Trade Agreement (Zim-SA BTA) which was revoked a few years ago.

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The 1964 agreement provided Zimbabwe access to SA on similar terms as Comesa, the rest of the African continent, Europe and the US under the African Growth and Opportunity Act (Agoa).

“We still have no progress on the resolution of the Zimbabwe-South Africa Bi-Lateral Trade Agreement (BTA). This 1964 agreement provides access to SA on similar terms as Comesa, the rest of the African continent, Europe and the US under the African Growth and Opportunity Act,” he said.

“But Sadc rules restrict the ability to trade, and therefore the BTA is essential to our ability to grow, employ, export and provide the country with a core economic driver. We are in regular and multiple contacts with the government but it remains unresolved.”

Youmans said if barriers to industrialization were removed, the industry could grow significantly.

“Getting the same access to SA that we enjoy with effectively the rest of the world, would create multitudes of opportunities and the industry could respond very quickly, as long as allocations of forex are available for raw materials rather than for thousands of consumer goods which are running out of consumers who can afford them,” he said.

The Zcma boss said they could employ and train people quickly and produce garments in very short periods. In such a situation, they would employ over 5 000 people in the short term, and lot of that could be done in 2020.

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