The Cape garment and textile industry, once the backbone of job creation in the province, is set for a major boost with funding from the provincial government. File picture: Cindy Waxa/African News Agency (ANA) Archives
Cape Town - The Cape garment and textile industry, once the backbone of job creation in the province, is set for a major boost with funding from the provincial government.

The provincial Department of Economic Development and Tourism will allocate R132million in funding to stimulate the industry and create new jobs. 

MEC of Economic Opportunities, Beverley Schäfer, said: “We import too much and we produce too little. As a country, our imports of clothing, textiles and leather goods have rocketed from just over R5billion in 2000 to almost R60bn now.”

Schäfer said African labour was considerably cheaper than elsewhere in the world.

“In the clothing and textile sector, South African labour is 45% cheaper than in China at the moment and it makes no sense that we are not producing more locally.

“This region used to be well known for its clothing and textile production and we want to rebuild this industry and use the skills we already have, while developing new ones,” she said.

According to Wesgro, the manufacturing industry in the Western Cape accounts for about 15% of the province’s economy and employs about 10% of the province’s workforce.

“The manufacturing industry is far from dead and there are still opportunities. It is true that manufacturing growth has lagged services sectoral growth,” said Cornelis van der Waal, Wesgro’s head of research.

“Globally, there has been massive manufacturing consolidation as globalisation has spread, resulting in the demise of many manufacturing segments such as local textiles manufacturing. It has mostly been centralised in places such as Vietnam and increasingly East Africa - Ethiopia, in particular.” Van der Waal said the province needed to boost exports of products they were able to manufacture.

“It is crucial that market opportunities with economies of scale are developed. In the Western Cape this includes the green revolution, electronics, specialised automotive components, health and beauty products and the agricultural sector. The province exports more than 45% of all agricultural-related exports in South Africa,” he said.

Shaun Kirby, the senior project manager at the Cape Clothing and Textile Cluster, said: “The manufacturing sector remains a core industry where a number of jobs are created We need to position local manufacturers to distribute goods that the Chinese market can’t.”

The Southern African Clothing and Textile Workers’ Union said that too much importing could mean the end of the industry.

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Cape Argus