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South Africa: Clothing and Textile Sectors Cheer Presidential Speech

Published date:
Monday, 06 February 2006

South Africa's President Thabo Mbeki's generally upbeat, but short on concrete detail, state of the nation address to parliament on Friday has been broadly welcomed by the beleaguered clothing and textile industry, which is likely to be the first to benefit directly from the government's more proactive approach to growth.

Giving broad details of the accelerated and shared growth initiative for South Africa (Asgisa), Mbeki said that nine specific sectors - business process outsourcing, tourism, chemicals, biofuels, metals and metallurgy, wood pulp and paper, agriculture, creative industries, and clothing and textiles - had been identified as the most likely to show accelerated growth if all impediments were removed.

As a result, "work is proceeding apace" to deal with the high cost of telecommunications and import-parity pricing for steel and chemicals, he said. But progress appeared to be most advanced for the clothing and textile sector, where he said an agreement had been reached with China to protect the sector.

Ebrahim Patel, the general secretary of the Southern African Clothing and Textile Workers' Union, said prioritising the sector recognised its vast potential to create jobs given its high labour intensity.

Mbeki had "placed on record what is understood to be an in-principle agreement with China to save the South African clothing and textile sector", he said.

By mentioning the agreement with China in his speech, Mbeki had given the industry new hope about its future. But Patel warned this could only "be the start of a renewal of jobs and investment".

The Institute for Democracy in SA welcomed the positive tone set by Mbeki but said more concrete details likely to be released this week by deputy president Phumzile Mlambo-Ncguka and cabinet members to parliament would give a better picture of what was planned.

Iraj Abedian, the chief executive of Pan-African Capital Holdings, liked Mbeki's reference to the "the dawn of the Age of Hope".

His commitment to deal with the inefficiency of local government augered well for accelerating service delivery at the community level. It would be "vital to ensuring the acceleration of capital expenditure to underpin economic growth and job creation", Abedian said.

Cosatu acknowledged that the aim of Asgisa appeared to be to do away with continued socioeconomic inequalities, but said that more comprehensive proposals were needed on how this would be done.

These should not only aim to accelerate growth, but also to "urgently" prioritise redistribution. It said that thinking the "limited programme" of Asgisa was all that was needed to transform the economy would be a "fatal mistake".

“AGOA Latest AGOA Trade Data currently available on

Click here to view a sector profile of South Africa’s bilateral trade with the United States, disaggregated by total exports and imports, AGOA exports and GSP exports.

Other regularly updated trade statistics on include: (click each link to view)

  • AGOA-Beneficiary Countries’ AGOA and GSP Trade Aggregates

  • AGOA Trade by Industry Sector

  • Apparel Trade under AGOA’s Wearing Apparel Provisions

  • Latest Apparel Quotas under AGOA

  • Bilateral Trade Data for all AGOA-eligible countries individually.

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