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(#2 / 2018 - 27 March 2018)
South Africa-Malawi
Textile & Apparel Balance of Trade
In 2016 Malawi exported US$125 000 worth of textiles and apparel to South Africa
In 2016 South Africa exported US$3.5m worth of textiles and apparel to Malawi


Ground has been broken on the site of a new textile factory that will be established in Malawi’s central district of Salima. Speaking at the ceremony Malawi’s President Mutharika stated that the project is a significant step towards turning Malawi into a major African textile exporter.

It has been reported that the China-Malawi Cotton Company will develop a factory with an initial investment of US$44.2m, followed by a further US$36 investment. Ju Wenbin, chairman of the company, said the project comprises a vertically integrated cotton spinning plant, a weaving mill and a towel factory. The firm is expected to become operational in June 2019; and 1,500 people would be employed.

Malawi's textile and apparel export manufacturing industry collapsed after the so called SADC MMTZ arrangement expired in about 2011. In terms of this arrangement Malawi firms could export select categories of Malawi made clothing (made with fabrics sourced from anywhere in the world) into South Africa free of customs duties, but subject to quota restrictions.

Its worth noting that some Malawi firms used to export knit garments to the US using the US' African Growth & Opportunity Act (AGOA) trade preference programme - but this trade seems to be on the way out (in 2015 Malawi firms exported US$6.3m worth of clothes to the US; in 2016 US$1.6m; and in 2017 a paltry US$323,000!) Malawian firms are located far from effective maritime ports so the logistics of bringing in manufacturing inputs (fabrics and trims) and exporting finished products takes time, and is expensive.

There are now also indications that another towelling plant - Merlin Textiles - may soon recommence basic operations in Bulawayo (Zimbabwe).

Another two Southern African toweling manufacturers coming on stream can be expected to provide additional competition for existing South African towel producers.

Currently the Glodina facility located in South Africa's KwaZulu-Natal province is under provisional liquidation. This is inspite of the fact that South Africa's Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) is known to have committed US$15.7m (R185m) to rescue the plant in late September 2017. The IDC also continues to control, in spite of efforts to dispose of the plant, the Colibri Toweling factory that is located near to Cape Town (South Africa). Aside from a mandate to save/create jobs the IDC has another interest in ensuring that both Glodina (and Colibri) continue to operate as the IDC owned Prilla 2000 cotton spinning mill (located in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa) sells significant amounts of yarns to these plants.

Going forward it is possible that there may be further rationalisation in the toweling sector. Is it possible that the Colibri and Glodina operations be merged? Of course if there was to be a merger this will require South African competition authority approval ... and such a process will almost certainly pique the interest of the Ladysmith (South Africa) based Zorbatex toweling manufacturer.

Having institutions such as the IDC that have the resources to rescue distressed manufactuing plants is important. Saving jobs on a sustainable basis is important. It would, however, be useful that industry stakeholders undertake an independent regional, toweling value chain analysis and use this to premise restructuring interventions ... otherwise it will only be a matter of time before the firms rescued using the public purse come back for additional public funds. Continued bailouts of the same firm may raise the cost of borrowing for other value chain firms that want to borrow from the IDC to improve and/or expand their businesses.

There are interesting times ahead.
Zimbabwean apparel manufacturers are complaining that they are unable to obtain foreign exchange so they can import fabrics to make garments; and, to buy capital equipment in order to upgrade their factories. The manufacturers are also complaining that recent Zimbabwean customs tariff hikes on some imported fabrics is jeopardising the production of garments destined for the local market. Leading Zimbabwean garment exporters are thought to be Paramount Garments / Archer Clothing - which are related to Javlin Workwear.

Zimbabwean apparel manufacturers’ woes will continue later in 2018 when they will have to rely on selling garments into South Africa using only the Southern African Development Community (SADC) protocol on trade. Over the past couple of years much of Zimbabwe’s garment exports to South Africa was conducted in terms of a bilateral trade agreement concluded in 1964. Initially the agreement was a tariff-quota arrangement in terms of which Zimbabwean garment manufacturers could export select categories of garments to South Africa at reduced rates of customs duties and under quota. Somehow this changed in the past3/4 years and much Zimbabwean made apparel entered South Africa free of customs duties, with no quota limitations, and under a concession that the garments could be made from fabrics sourced from anywhere in the world. While the SADC trade prtocol provides for zero duties on garments – zero duties will not apply to garments made with fabrics that originate from outside of SADC.


The Ethiopian Federal Government has concluded (8 March 2018) a second contract with SGR LLC - a US based political lobby firm. The new contract commenced on 20 February and will end on 20 April 2018. This contract was concluded a couple of days after a state of emergency was declared in Ethiopia (on 16 February 2018) – the second state of emergency in the country in less than a year.

SGR has been​ contracted to undertake the following:

SGR will work with the client to develop and executive a public affairs plan to enhance the dialogue and relationships with policymakers, media, opinion leaders and business leaders. The campaign will promote a better understanding of Ethiopia's political, social and economic environment, assist in day-to-day press inquiries, shore up support for politicians and government officials as they address Ethiopian issues, collaborate with the principal's diplomatic teams in the US to tell the nation's story and enhance the relationships with US diplomats, and broaden government outreach to legislators acknowledging the importance of the nations' bilateral relationship. SGR will also work to strengthen US-Ethiopian business outreach and grow foreign direct investment in Ethiopia.

Activities may include meetings with members of Congress, their staffs, and executive branch officials to broaden government outreach and acknowledge the importance of the nations' bilateral relationship, including intelligence gathering, broadening state-level interaction arid implementing fact-based content creation. Will conduct research on issues of concern to the principal and provide counsel to the principal on developments in Congress, the executive branch and with members of the press.

The Ethiopia Government initially contracted SGR in January 2017 for a monthly fee of US$150,000. This contract was concluded a day before the then US Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, Ms Linda Thomas Greenfield, visited Ethiopia. It is rumoured that during her visit that Ethiopia’s continued eligibility in terms of the African Growth & Opportunity Act (AGOA) was was discussed. Section 104 of the AGOA legislation sets out how countries become eligible for AGOA privileges. One of the eligibility criteria is that there must be the "rule of law, political pluralism, and the right to due process, a fair trial, and equal protection under the law". It is understood that this was a topic for discussion.

Ethiopia is currently not the only sub-Saharan African nation whose continued AGOA eligibility is under a US microscope. In 2017 the US advised Rwanda, Uganda and Tanzania that they could lose their AGOA privileges. US authorities initiated an out-of-cycle review of these nationas AGOA eligibility. Another AGOA eligibility criteria is that AGOA beneficiary countries must not impede the activities of US businesses - the stance of the three EAC Member States was seen to be targetting the worn clothing exports of US firms. At a recent East African Community (EAC) Heads of State meeting (24 february 2017) the issue was discussed but it remains unclear as to whether the gazetted instruments affecting the three EAC Member States were sufficient enough to get the US to revisit its threats to possibly terminate their AGOA privileges.


The EU has notified the World Trade Organisation of possible amendments to its “Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation & Restriction of Chemicals” (REACH) regime, The possible changes will specifically affect certain textile, apparel and related products.

REACH is an EU regulation dating from December 2006. It addresses the production and use of chemical substances, and their potential impacts on both human health and the environment. Its 849 pages took seven years to pass, and has been described as the most complex legislation in the EU's history.

The new draft regulation (and associated Annex), released for comment in February 2018, specifically covers certain substances that are “carcinogenic, mutagenic or toxic for reproduction” (CMR).

The regulation would prohibit the placing into the EU market certain textile products containing CMR substances above specified concentrations. It would apply to clothing and related accessories, footwear, and other products, which under normal conditions of use, come into contact with the skin.

Comments on the draft regulation are due by 2 April 2018. A summary of
the proposed measures has been prepared by Intertek.

Botswana's Mmegi newspaper carried a general report on the decline of Botswana's textile and apparel industry. Some snippets:
"From 13 firms exporting under the AGOA provisions prior to the global recession, the number dropped to just one, Carapparel Botswana, which last year gave up and relocated to Lesotho."
"In the last decade, textile exports, including AGOA, have tumbled from P1.8bn [about US$190m] in 2008 to P163m [about US$17m] for the year up to November 2017, according to Bank of Botswana data."


In April 2017 a coalition of unions/human/labour rights advocates requested 71 apparel and footwear retailers and brands to sign a transparency pledge that would, if they signed it, require them to reveal core information about the producers that make products for them. The retailers/brands that were approached by the coalition were asked to respond by December 2017.

The request was that retailers/brands should publish on their websites, at least twice a year, a list identifying: i) all authorised sites that manufacture their products; ii) the site addresses; iii) the parent company of the business at the site; iv) the type of products made; and, v) the number of workers at each site.

The coalition argued that “transparency” (see their report: “Follow the Thread: The Need for Supply Chain Transparency in the Garment and Footwear Industry”) would ensure the identification of apparel and footwear retailers/brands whose products are manufactured in factories where workers’ rights were abused.

It appears that none of the retailers/brands approached had head offices on the African continent; although some of the global brands do sell products through license arrangements and through their own branded stores in African countries. I believe that it will only be matter of time before activists approach African retailers - especially those headquartered in South Africa - with a request that they make public information on their suppliers. It is likely that concerted and co-ordinated campaigning may be focussed on those that do not sign-up to the "Transparenct Pledge". South African apparel retailers with operations in Europe and Australasia are likely to come under the most pressure (e.g. The Foschini Group, the Mr Price group, Woolworths, and the broader 'Pepkor' grouping).

The next couple of issues this newsletter will continue to publish the lists disclosed by the global retailers/brands; it will identify where the “factory lists” can be accessed; and, also identify the African countries where products are being made.
  • Asics – full alignment with “Transparency Pledge” - 1 supplier unit in South Africa
  • ASOS – full alignment with “Transparency Pledge” - 19 supplier units in Egypt, Tunisia, Kenya, Mauritius, Madagascar
  • Adidas (both primary suppliers and licensees) – full alignment with “Transparency Pledge” - 21 supplier units in South Africa, Mauritius, Lesotho, Egypt, Tunisia
  • C & A – full alignment with “Transparency Pledge" - 13 supplier units in Madagascar, Morocco, Tunisia, Egypt
  • Cotton-On – full alignment with “Transparency Pledge” - 5 supplier units in South Africa, Madagascar
  • Esprit – full alignment with “Transparency Pledge” - 13 supplier units in Madagascar, Morocco, Mauritius, Tunisia
  • H & M – full alignment with “Transparency Pledge” - 25 supplier units in Ethiopia, Kenya, Morocco, Tunisia
  • Hanesbrands – full alignment with “Transparency Pledge” - 1 supplier unit in South Africa
  • Levis Strauss – full alignment with “Transparency Pledge” - 30 supplier units in Madagascar, Tanzania, Egypt, Kenya, Tunisia, Mauritius, Lesotho
  • Gap – full alignment with “Transparency Pledge” - 11 supplier units in Egypt, Mauritius, Tunisia.
The African producers identified above may include some footwear and fashion accessory manufacturers; as well as external/internal services suppliers (e.g. commission embroidery, laundry, garment screen-printing services, etc).
to be continued in the next edition Monitor …


Top 250 Global Retailers in 2016

  • The figures relate to the Financial Year 2016. Since then the Steinhoff Group, which had significant subsidiary operations selling apparel and footwear, has collapsed in a well publicised corporate scandal.
  • WalMart and Costco, mainly indirectly via agents, source clothing from African garment manufacturers.
  • In terms of Africa the South African head-quartered retailers are the only ones to make it into the Delloite top 250 global retailers listing.
  • The Pick n Pay group does have a growing apparel retail division but apparel and footwear sales are dwarfed by its grocery sales. Woolworths is a general department store with significant food sales.
Source: Deloitte, “Global Powers of Retailing 2018”, January 2018.


About: ACTIF is a regional trade body formed in June 2005 by the cotton, textile and apparel sectors from across Africa to create a unified and recognized voice in both regional and global trade affairs. ACTIF’s mandate is to bring the disparate needs of the cotton, textile and apparel sectors into cohesive and consensus driven positions at regional and international trade and development forums.

Cotton, Clothing & Textile Objectives: ACTIF structures its work-programme around a number of themes: i) being an advocate for Africa by assisting to address policy issues impacting regional and international trade; ii) enhancing competitiveness by promoting knowledge transfer, new investment, technology upgrades; iii) improving trade linkages, by promoting a regional supply chain, B2B activities, developing trade linkages with key markets including the USA, the EU, India, China, etc; and, iv) Providing information services (for example – the exchange of information, sharing of market data, country profiles, etc).

Operations: ACTIF’s programmes are rolled out throughout Africa.

HQ: Nairobi (Kenya).

Website: and

Sector News Updates: "Origin Africa 2018", Africa's premier trade event for the cotton, textile and apparel sectors will be hosted in conjunction with International Textile Manufacturers' Federation (ITMF)) annual conference in Nairobi (Kenya). See below for dates of both events.


Over the next few editions the "African Cotton, Textiles & Apparel Monitor" will focus on some of the academic and development NGO research that has covered the Ethiopian cotton, textile and apparel value chain. This edition will provide an overview of the industry; next week the Monitor will spotlight the country's flagship Hawassa Industrial Park.

Made in Ethiopia: The Emergence and Evolution of the Ethiopian Apparel Export Sector. Cornelia Staritz, Lindsay Whitfield. 2017. Roskilde. Center of African Economies at Roskilde University.
Synopsis: The apparel export industry in Ethiopia began modestly in the 2000s, but increased significantly by the mid-2010s and will continue to do so in the coming years, positioning Ethiopia to be an important supplier country in the globalised apparel industry. This paper provides an overview of the emergence and evolution of the apparel export sector in Ethiopia. It argues that the EPRDF government’s pro-active industrial policy played an important role in the development of the sector. While foreign firms are an important driver behind the growth of apparel exports, there are also locally owned firms exporting apparel, which makes Ethiopia distinct from most other sub-Saharan African apparel exporter countries.

Ethiopian owned apparel firms exhibit diverse ownership patterns, including state-owned, party-owned, and private sector-owned firms. The first phase of industrial policy particularly focused on incentivising local investment in apparel production for export while later phases of industrial policy shifted the focus to attracting foreign direct investment, in order to boost exports and generate employment more quickly as well as bring knowledge and global networks into the country. Despite the focus on exports, the EPRDF government simultaneously has pursued import-substitution policies in the textile and apparel sector, which has helped the development of locally owned apparel firms by subsidising the cost of learning to export as well as building a national supply chain from cotton to textile to apparel. The challenges for the government’s industrial policy approach is to retain the focus on local firms given their important role in productive transformation and to ensure incentives and support for local firms to export, and through this to increase their capabilities and value added, despite the existence of a protected domestic market. Full paper can be found HERE.

Mapping the Technological Capabilities of Ethiopian-owned Firms in the Apparel Global Value Chain. Lindsay Whitfield, Cornelia Staritz. 2017. Roskilde. Center of African Economies at Roskilde University.

Synopsis: Foreign direct investment has played an important role in the apparel export industry in Ethiopia, but what makes Ethiopia different to most other sub-Saharan African countries is the existence of locally owned exporting firms. There were 48 Ethiopian owned firms in 2016, of which 14 firms were exporting apparel or made-up textiles. To export, local firms have to be able to deliver consistently products at a certain price and quality and to meet delivery deadlines, which require developing new technological capabilities. This paper analyses the level of capabilities among Ethiopian-owned exporting firms and their positions within the apparel global value chain, as well as how they have fared and which challenges they continue to face.

Generally, the 14 local exporting firms have low technological capabilities and struggle to meet export requirements, despite important diversity among them. Learning is a costly process and takes time, thus many local firms are experiencing losses or just break even in their export business. Straddling the domestic and export market plays an important role, as firms make profits in the protected domestic market while they are learning how to meet the cost, quality and delivery standards of export markets. Therefore, most local firms use the domestic market as a means to subsidise the cost of learning to compete, but they also use what they learn through exporting in terms of productivity, quality and design for their domestic market business. Full paper can be found HERE.


  • Africa Occupational Safety & Health (A-OSH) - Trade Show - 22-24 May 2018. Johannesburg, South Africa. For more information:
  • Source Africa - Trade Show - 20-21 June 2018. Cape Town, South Africa. For more information:
  • 14th Symposium of the Southern & East Africa Cotton Forum - Workshop - 4-6 July 2018. Harare, Zimbabwe. For more information: SEACF
  • Apparel Sourcing New York - Trade Show - 23-25 July 2018. New York, United States. For more information:
  • Sourcing at Magic - Trade Show - 12-15 August 2018. Las Vegas, United States. For more information:
  • International Textile Manufacturers' Federation (ITMF) - Annual Conference - 7-9 September 2018. Nairobi, Kenya. For more information:
  • Origin Africa – Trade Show - 9-11 September 2018. Nairobi, Kenya. For more information:
  • Apparel Sourcing Paris - Trade Show - 17-20 September 2018. Paris, France. For more information:
  • Africa Sourcing & Fashion Week (ASFW) - Trade Show - 1-4 October 2018. Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. For more information:
  • Textile Exchange Sustainability Conference - Annual Conference - 22-24 October 2018. Milan, Italy. For more Information:
  • Destination Africa - Trade Show - November 2018. Cairo, Egypt. For more information:
  • ATF Expo - Trade Show - 20-23 November 2018. Cape Town, South Africa. For more information:
  • 77th Plenary Meeting - International Cotton Advisory Committee (ICAC) - Annual Conference - 2-7 December 2018. Abidjan, Ivory Coast. For more information:



Looking for staff? Want to engage a consultant? Have equipment to sell? Do you need 2nd hand machinery? Have a tender? For a limited period the "African Cotton, Textiles & Apparel Monitor" will publish (free of charge) select classified advertisements from firms / development organisations active in the Africa's crop to shop value chain. Adverts limited to 50 words / 300 characters (and may include a mini logo).
Labour/environmental compliance auditing firm active in textile/apparel manufacturing industry requires local language to English translators in Swaziland, Lesotho, Madagascar & Mauritius for ad hoc assignments. Candidates preferably based in their capital city. Send English CV to
about Mark Bennett - Editor
"The African Cotton, Textiles & Apparel Monitor"
I have almost 30 years' experience working in Africa's cotton, textiles and apparel value chain. Initially I was, for 15 years, a sector trade unionist in South Africa; then, from 2004 onwards, I worked as a development consultant for various Southern / Eastern African governments, and domestic private sectors. In my development activities I have been engaged by private sector foundations, and by DFID and USAID funded contractors. I find it rewarding creating development interventions that help cotton, textiles and apparel stakeholders to better processes, improve productivity, increase sales and add investment. See my full CV at Devex or LinkedIn.

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