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(#25 / 2018 - 4 September 2018)
In 2017 Lesotho exported €3.7m worth of garments (HS61 & 62) to the EU
In 2017 Kenya exported €5.8m worth of garments (HS61 & 62) to the EU
In 2017 Madagascar exported €336.6m worth of garments (HS61 & 62) to the EU

eSWATINI (née SWAZILAND) – 10,000 WORKERS STRIKE, 31 August 2018
About five textile firms in Nhlangano had to close early for the day after close to 10,000 workers turned rowdy and took to the streets. It all began around the lunch hour when workers were gathered outside the gate at Zheng Yong Garments, where they were to get feedback from their union leaders pertaining to ongoing salary raise negotiations with the employer. The workers had just been told that the negotiations had hit a deadlock and a certificate of unresolved dispute issued by CMAC, when they burst into song while going back to work, according to ATUSWA Secretary General Wonder Mkhonza. READ HERE >>

Is it possible that workers in eSwatini will follow the lead taken by workers in Lesotho and require substantial wage increases? Last week this newsletter reported that qualified sewing machinists in Lesotho won a 37.4% increase to their minimum wage. [SEE BELOW FOR SOME OBSERVATIONS ON THE LESOTHO MINIMUM WAGE INCREASE.]

South African clothing and homeware retailer The Foschini Group (TFG) said it was launching one of its African retail brands in Australia to test appetite outside its traditional market. The move announced by outgoing CEO Doug Murray and his successor, Anthony Thunström, aims to show whether TFG’s local brands can thrive in more developed markets than sub-Saharan Africa where weak economies are seen limiting potential. “We will have six stores open on a test basis by the end of this year,” Thunström said without naming the brand. READ HERE >>

During the first four months (18 weeks to 4 August 2018) of the financial year ending 30 March 2019, the MRP Group recorded growth in retail sales and other income of 7.4% to R7.4bn (US$507m) over the corresponding period in the prior year. Total retail sales, including sales to franchisees, of R6.9bn (US$472.8m) were 6.5% higher than the corresponding period. Comparable store sales growth and unit growth was achieved in all divisions.

Online sales continued to grow strongly by 28.1% to R83.2m. The MRP Apparel online channel achieved sales growth of 37.6% MRP Home 19.5% and MRP Sport 31.3%. South African sales increased 6.4% to R6.4bn (US$438.5m). Sales in non-South African corporate owned stores grew 9.1% to R520.8m (US$35.7m), aided by the inclusion of the previously franchised Kenyan stores from late May 2018. Excluding Kenya, corporate owned store growth was 1.8%. Sales to franchisees decreased 30.9%, however after excluding Kenya in both periods, sales were up 11.6%. READ HERE >>

The Egyptian garment and textile sector has seen a rebound and a new spurt of growth in the recent years. Egypt’s focus has shifted from imports to growing quality cotton crop. The Egyptian Ministry of Trade and Industry has shown faith in the industry for enabling in Egypt’s trade balance in 2017. In 2017, Egypt’s exports increased by around 12% and the industry contributed to more than 3% of the country’s GDP, while providing employment to a third of Egypt’s total industrial labour force. By September 2017, the garment exports reached US$951m for the year, as per the data provided by the Readymade Garments Export Council of Egypt. READ HERE >>

50 kilogrammes. That is the maximum Nathalie can smuggle in one night. She knows a shortcut to avoid the border control. Her heavy bags are packed with used trousers, dresses and shirts from Europe and North America. "If you get caught, you can go to jail. If you are lucky, you can bribe the police," she said. One trip takes her two days. Eight hours by van from Kigali, the capital of Rwanda, to the place near the border where her parents live. Another hour by boat to the Democratic Republic of the Congo. There she spends the day at the market. "I look for all kinds of clothes. Back home, the people buy everything because second-­hand clothes are hard to get.

Nathalie's 50kg of used clothes are just a minor contraband compared to other smugglers. Rwandan authorities have impounded 230tons of illegally imported clothes from July to December 2017. This is a consequence of the rise of customs tariffs for worn clothing from US$0.20 to US$2.50 per kg by the Rwandan government. The high tariffs are part of the strategy to strengthen the domestic textile sector. Currently, local production cannot compete with the quality and price of used clothes from the West. In 2015, the states of the East African Community decided to ban the import on second-­hand clothing from 2019 onwards. Today, Rwanda is the only state that sticks to this plan. READ HERE >>

From 8am until 5pm, Emaway forms part of a sprawling assembly line inside a brightly lit, air-conditioned shed that looks like a giant aircraft hangar. But her wages allow for little. “I get paid 1,200 birr (US$44) a month with overtime,” she says. “After rent and food, there is nothing left. My cousin has to support me.” Emaway is one of the lowest-paid workers at the factory.

Getachew Tilanun (20), is from a family of maize farmers in Welega, where Ethiopia borders South Sudan in the west. After working at the factory for two years, he has been promoted twice and now earns 2,500 Ethiopian birr (about US$90) a month, and receives three meals a day and the chance to live onsite for subsidised rent. Unlike 90% of International Labour Organisation member states, Ethiopia has no minimum wage. The international poverty line is about US$57 a month. “For my wage, I have a lot of responsibility,” he says, explaining that he oversees 100 workers, including 11 line supervisors. “If they make mistakes, my wages get docked.” Getachew has taught himself to speak Chinese to give himself “unique” employment skills. “I tried to find out everything I could about China on the internet,” he says. “When I saw Asian people, I just tried to speak to them.” His work is tough, but the alternative is worse. “Even my father doesn’t like being a farmer,” Getachew says. “It’s the job of the very uneducated.” READ HERE >>

After she finished grade 10, Selamawit Kegna's parents started looking for a groom for their daughter because they thought since she was not a good student she would not be able to support herself. Then a friend told the teen how she could earn her own livelihood. A Chinese-owned jeans factory in the Eastern Industry Zone on the outskirts of capital Addis Ababa was looking for workers. "I came and applied for a job at once," the 19-year-old said, sitting in front of a sewing machine in the factory. After three weeks of training, Kegna was officially recruited. Now as a seamer, she earns 1,500 to 2,000 Ethiopian birr (US$73 to US$55) a month, and is looking forward to a totally different life. READ HERE >>

South African apparel retailers supplying products to Namibia have to abide by that country’s retail charter, which aims to control access to the local market to allow for the development of local suppliers. The retail charter was introduced by the Namibian government in 2016 to promote increased procurement of locally grown and manufactured goods. It has become the Achilles heel for South African retailers, which would largely have home products in their stores. READ HERE >>

Its known that the Namibia Government has written (circa 2016) to a number of South African headquartered apparel retailers requesting/insisting that they buy locally made Namibia garments. The problem is: there are currently only few (perhaps none!) garment manufacturing plants in Namibia that could make these garments. Since the closure of Dantago Clothing (based in Arandis – it used to supply Woolworths stores via the Cape Town based Jacques Hau sourcing house) options have become limited. Details on Namibia’s Retail Sector Charter can be accessed HERE >>.

South African retailers must look closely at their Southern African sourcing practices. They need to buy more in the countries where they trade. I think it is right that these countries force supplier development programmes on these retailers. Walmart, as condition of its purchase of the South African Massmart group (e.g. Game, Makro, Foodco, Builders Warehouse, etc) – had to put R240m (US$16.3m) to support local South Africa firms as a condition to its takeover of Massmart. SEE >> It maintains that commitment today with a R30m (US$2m) per annum contribution to a South African supplier development programme. Massmart operates in many other sub-Saharan African countries. Its surprising that governments in some of these countries have not asked Massmart to extend the programme to their territories if it operates in their borders!

However, in the case of Namibia, it does seem somewhat ironic that the country is putting local sourcing requirements on foreign retailers - but the government turns a blind eye to the imports (from Brazil) of uniforms for its military. What is more ironic is that the company that recently won the government tender to supply the uniforms – August 26 Textiles & Garment (SEE >>) - is a company closely aligned with the ruling SWAPO party. My guess is that this company could have made the uniforms but chased the quick buck by importing Brazilian made garments. READ HERE >>

A thing to look out for! So rumor has it. But a rumor on good authority. Ambassador Faizal Ismail – South Africa’s former long-term resident representative at the WTO, and a confidant of South Africa’s Minister of Trade & Industry - has been engaged by the South African Department of Trade & Industry (DTI) to develop a South African retailer code of conduct for when operating outside of South Africa’s borders. The DTI has already developed “a doing business in Africa guide” (NOTE: only “guidelines”). READ HERE >>

Used clothes imported from the US and other developed countries are believed to pose a challenge to Africa’s clothing industries. While some countries in the eastern African region are resisting the pressure to continue the practice in a bid to protect their textile industries, local textile manufacturers continue to struggle with issues of smuggling, poor patronage and low purchasing power while capacity for apparel production remains low. READ HERE >>
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NIGERIA – Bt COTTON, 27-29 August 2018
Nigeria’s textile industry was once a thriving part of the nation’s economy. The industry was once the country’s second-leading employer, with mills spread throughout various states supported by local cotton farmers. But the industry today is shambles, resulting from a variety of factors, including internal strife, an influx of cheap Chinese fabrics and pests that plague cotton growers. At its peak, just two decades ago, the industry employed 600,000 workers. Today that number is closer to 20,000. There are no easy ways to fix complex problems. But farmers in Nigeria are hoping the recent approval of two Bt cotton seeds will fuel a resurgence in the troubled sector. READ HERE >>

A statement by Dr. Rose Gidado of National Biotechnology Development Agency (NBDA) said it approved the official registration of 2 Bt cotton varieties (MRC7377 BG11 and MRC7361 BG11). “This makes it the first genetically modified crop to be approved for planting in Nigeria. “We commended the Federal High Court in Abuja, which struck out a case instituted by civil societies, challenging National Biosafety Management Agency (NBMA),” the statement said. Gidado, who said the judgment had brought to a close the long orchestrated legal battle canvassed by the anti-genetically modified activists who never believed in our scientists, stressed: “It also shows that the acceptance of the technology has been legally confirmed in Nigeria, and the era of spreading unscientific rumours is over here. READ HERE >>

The Southern African Clothing & Textile Workers’ Union (SACTWU) has settled its wage dispute in South Africa’s wool and mohair processing textile sector. The result is a 2-year agreement - workers will receive an 8.5% package increase in year one of the agreement; and a further 7.5% increase in the following year. The increases will be backdated to 1 July 2018.

Source: SACTWU Press Releases 29 August 2018 (SEE >>).

TANZANIA – COTTON SEED, 24 August 2018
The Tanzanian Official Seed Certification Institute (TOSCI) has directed suppliers of agricultural inputs in the country to adhere to the country’s laws and ensure that they register with the organization in order to be recognized legally. Country coordinator of Gatsby Africa said that education provided to the agents and farm inputs dealers would help them change and improve production. Gatsby Africa is an NGO working with local institutions to restructure Tanzania’s cotton sector and build supportive markets to ensure more than 400,000 cotton farmers can access the quality inputs and training they need to improve agronomy, increase yields and boost incomes. READ HERE >>


In the last issue of the "African Cotton, Textiles & Apparel Monitor" (#25 of 28 August 2018) it was reported that workers in Lesotho’s textile, apparel and footwear manufacturing industry have won significant increases to their minimum wages ranging between 21% and 37.4%. The wage of a qualified sewing machinist in the country will rise from M1,456 a month (US$102) to M2,000 (US$141) a month.

The wage rise came about after more than five months of indecision when the government decided to implement adjustments to workers’ minimum wages with effect from 1 September 2018. The wage hike came after a bruising battle involving government, a coalition of trade unions, and the Lesotho Textile Exporters’ Association (LTEA). In August alone more than 9 days of work was lost through wildcat strike action – and in some instances by the country’s police ordering that factories remain shut. Rumours are now that workers in the country's textile and garment manufacturing industry will commence a go-slow in pursuit of claims for backpay for time worked between 1 April 2018 and the end of August 2018.

To recap the wage increases authorised by the Government of Lesotho, with effect from 1 September 2018, for textile and garment workers are as follows:

Politely put – the situation is a mess. And it does not like its going to get better anytime soon.

Lesotho can expect, over the next few years, for many of its AGOA orientated exporters to pack-up and leave the country for greener manufacturing pastures.

Its easy to see that Lesotho is no longer the low cost manufacturing destination that it was. To put this increase in minimum wages in context the current minimum wage paid to a qualified sewing machinist in:
  • eSwatini (nèe Swaziland) is E1,810.72 (US$128) per month; from 1 March 2019 this will be adjusted upwards by 7% resulting in a minimum monthly wage of E1,937.47 (US$130).
  • in Botswana the minimum manufacturing monthly wage is P1,128.18 (US$106) a month – this could be adjusted in November 2019.
  • in Ethiopia, which may have some of the most generous industrial incentives in Africa, there is no minimum wage … although there are reports that the Ethiopian Investment Commission (EIC) is punting a monthly minimum wage of around US$29; while some apparel retailers/ brands state that their Ethiopian manufacturing vendors are typically paying wages of about US$45 a month.

Lesotho’s chances of ever gaining investors from outside of the African continent must be significantly reduced now. Few investors will consider a country where they perceive a government to act against the interests of business. Some policymakers in Lesotho are obviously counting on the fact that there is considerable interest in Lesotho on the part of South African apparel and footwear manufacturers who may want to relocate to Lesotho should vacant industrial premises be available.

There are obviously lots of labour cost advantages for a Cape Town (South Africa) based garment manufacturer to move to Lesotho as their minimum wage (excluding benefits) is around R5,201.88 (US$354) a month. In the more rural South African town of Newcastle the minimum wage that should be paid to a skilled garment worker is R3,903 (US$266) a month. It is true, some may relocate, but the following needs to be considered:
  • should some Lesotho manufacturers depart they will leave large premises available for rent that are so large that no South African apparel or footwear manufacturer – the kinds of investments that Lesotho would want as Basotho workers already have many of the skills required and that these factories employ large numbers of people (especially women) - could reasonably fill with workers.
  • it will take time to fill these vacated factories premises. It could take between 1-3 months for a firm to vacate a premise; then another 1-2 months to fix a premise so that a new occupant can occupy the space; then another 2 months for the next tenant to start installing manufacturing equipment and then employing people. The result will be that large section of Lesotho’s working classes will be unemployed for long periods of time.
  • perhaps some South African based manufacturers may be put off by Lesotho. While Lesotho may have lower wages than South Africa their workers are not known for their productivity. Many buyers and firm owners say (and this is anecdotal) that the productivity and skills of Swazi (and Kenyan) workers are much higher.

South African trade unions, government officials and workers should be worried for Lesotho’s decision to raise wages will most probably have a significant impact upon South African employment. There will be a jobs' "difaqane" – turmoil in Lesotho’s labour market will see tens of thousands of jobs leaving South Africa for Lesotho.

Its difficult to see how Lesotho can now dig itself out of this massive self-inflicted wound.

Offering existing investors reduced rent (even free) deals for a period of time; or reducing corporate tax rates down from 10% to zero (most foreign textile / apparel investors in Ethiopia have zero corporate tax deals for up to 9 years; while investors in Kenya’s EPZ pay zero corporate tax for a defined period of time); or reducing the fees for work / residence permits to free (as is the case in Kenya); keeping water and power utility tariff increases down maybe all interventions that can help. Although there will be costs to each of these – reduced tax revenues, the LNDC and the utility companies may have insufficient resources to maintain, let alone expand, their existing infrastructure.

In my view, if implemented, the measures above will be insufficient to make up for the recent massive wage escalation.

The best chance Lesotho has of keeping existing firms will be for the government to rapidly get garment firms to improve their plant productivity levels and quality assurance systems.

Recently a quality control staffer of a major US buyer sourcing garments from Lesotho told me that on average he thought that Lesotho factory productivity levels were around 50%. To move a factory from 50% efficiency to 60-65% will really help them offset the pain of some of the wage escalation costs. It should be easy to do this and quickly; ... its much more difficult to move firms from 85% efficiency to 87% efficiency.

Major gains could be made here. More productive factories could help apparel firms adjust to the pain of this large wage increase; and it would set a platform for them to be able to adjust to future wage cost increases.

These productivity interventions should not be any fancy interventions like state funded training schools; or have consultants coming along and talking "fast fashion"; or the typical "benchmarking" audits. The training interventions of the UK funded Lesotho Manufacturers’ Association training school in the late 1990s; and more recently the World Bank funded training schools in Maseru / Maputsoe were, at the level of appearances, disasters. They provide useful instruction of how not to improve plant level productivity.

[Hey World Bank! – where is an objective external assessment of the successes, or otherwise, of the training schools that you foisted onto the Government of Lesotho - which you ultimately made them pay for via a loan from your institution?]

In my view manufacturers should be encouraged (forced) to start significant training interventions THEMSELVES - or as groups of firms working together as a cluster. Most training should (initially) be focused on fixing the performance of factory sewing lines ... making them more productive; and reducing the amount of garments faults in the stitching process. Then other areas could then be looked at: cutting rooms; production planning; factory layout; machine mechanics; etc.

One of the objectives would be to encourage factory owners to reduce the number of (expensive ... and not necessarily skilled) expatriate Chinese mid-level managers with Mosotho supervisors.

Firms should be encouraged to establish – perhaps via enhanced tax concessions – in-company training schools; and to engage skilled private sector training services providers to ramp-up factory production and quality. It can be done.

Workers’ wages - which are low - will remain low if the LNDC continues to allocate buildings to investors that make low value add garments. Investors that make more complicated, higher value add, garments should be able to pay workers more. Companies making workwear boilersuits sold in agricultural co-operatives will not be able to pay workers as much as those that make garments for some of the worlds more fashion orientated clothing chains. Simply put – Lesotho has too many companies making basic workwear!

In order to anchor existing investors to Lesotho consideration should be given to selling some of the existing industrial buildings that are currently being rented by industrialists. If factory owners owned their own buildings it may make them reconsider moving from Lesotho. They should be sold with the proviso that the structures sold can only be used for manufacturing purposes in the first five years after the sale – it would be pointless that the industrialists buy them and then make them into warehouses (which employ few) for imported goods. The funds raised by the LNDC for the sales could then be used to build other buildings

These are just a few suggestions - more issues could be addressed by the government of Lesotho (and its development partners). For example: the ease of doing business could be improved permiting (e.g. making it easier to obtain a range of permits); import/export border controls for industry could be made smarter; consideration should be given to providing more modern industrial infrastructure in industrial estates (e.g. industrial waste water processing facilities; solid waste landfills capable of handling industrial grade wastes); ensuring that Lesotho manufacturers are aware of other trade preferences (e.g. the EU-SADC Economic Partnership Agreement)
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The East Africa Shift in Textile and Apparel Manufacturing: China-Africa Strategies and AGOA’s Influence”. Weiyi Wang, Jinghao Lu, and Wilmot Allen. School of Advanced International Studies, Johns Hopkins University. Washington DC, United States. Policy Brief No 25. August 2018.

Synopsis: An emerging shift of the cotton-textile-apparel (CTA) value chain from China to East Africa has been influenced by China’s excess capacity, lower labor costs, duty-free incentives for exports to the US under the African Growth & Opportunity Act (AGOA) and its related Third-Country Fabric Provision. For East African countries, taking this opportunity to integrate the currently fragmented cotton-textile-apparel value chain could bring remarkable trade and economic growth to the region. For China, the largest textile and apparel manufacturer in the world, it is an opportunity to both transfer its excess capacity and increase investment into East Africa. Based on field research and case studies on four African and Chinese textile manufacturers in Kenya and Ethiopia, this policy brief highlights several opportunities for both East Africa and China as influenced by AGOA and makes recommendations on public-private collaboration to support this shift. The policy brief paper can be READ HERE >>
  • International Textile Manufacturers' Federation (ITMF) - Annual Conference - 7-9 September 2018. Nairobi, Kenya. For more information: www.itmf.org
  • Origin Africa – Trade Show - 9-11 September 2018. Nairobi, Kenya. For more information: www.originafrica.org
  • Apparel Sourcing Paris - Trade Show - 17-20 September 2018. Paris, France. For more information: www.apparelsourcing.fr.messefrankfurt.com
  • International Cotton & Textile Conference - Conference & Trade Show - 27-29 September 2018. Koudougou, Burkina Faso. For more information: SEE HERE >>; but also SEE HERE >> and SEE HERE >>
  • Africa Sourcing & Fashion Week (ASFW) - Trade Show - 1-4 October 2018. Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. For more information: www.asfw-online.com
  • Maroc Sourcing 2018 - Trade Show - 11-12 October 2018. Marrakech, Morocco. For more information: www.marocsourcing.ma
  • Textile Exchange Sustainability Conference - Annual Conference - 22-24 October 2018. Milan, Italy. For more Information: www.textileexchange.org
  • Destination Africa - Trade Show - 17-19 November 2018. Cairo, Egypt. For more information: www.destination-africa.org
  • ATF Expo - Trade Show - 20-23 November 2018. Cape Town, South Africa. For more information: www.atfexpo.co.za
  • 77th Plenary Meeting - International Cotton Advisory Committee (ICAC) - Annual Conference - 2-7 December 2018. Abidjan, Ivory Coast. For more information: www.icac.org and SEE HERE >>
  • Sourcing at Magic - Trade Show - 4-7 February 2019. Las Vegas, United States. For more information: www.ubmfashion.com
  • Morocco Fashion & Textile - Trade Show - 28-31 March 2019. Casablanca, Morocco, For more information: www.moroccostyle.net
  • Source Africa - Trade Show - 12-14 June 2019. Cape Town, South Africa. For more information: www.sourceafrica.co.za
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).
I get repeated requests from environmental and labour compliance auditing bodies for in-country staff who can assist them with translations when they are undertaking in country audits. If you know of any individuals/organisations who could undertake these kinds of services kindly let me know their details. Country, language competencies, names, contact details please. editor@africantextilesandapparel.com
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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