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Swaziland: Textile sector target of industrial unrest

Published date:
Monday, 10 March 2008

With the textile industry currently losing millions of emalangeni as a result of the ongoing mass protest action by workers, investors will have even more to worry about as this is only the tip of an iceberg of challenges faced by the sector.

Other challenges currently facing the apparel sector include high utility and transport costs as well as strong and consistent wage demands, a report compiled by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) states.

Despite local textile workers demanding among other things an increase in wages, the IMF says wages in the garment sector are already considered high compared to neighbouring countries, with the exception of South Africa.

"Beyond 2012, it is expected that there will be increased competition from other Asian countries including China, India, Bangladesh and Vietnam, countries known to produce textiles at lower costs than Swaziland," reads the report.

"Additionally, the rising incidence of HIV and AIDS adversely impacts productivity. Discussions are ongoing on ways to better position the sector to deal with these mounting challenges."

In the face of the mounting pressure on the textile sector, the focus has been on restoring exports, attracting new investments and seeking to promote organic cotton.

"Stringent efforts are currently underway by the Swazi authorities to revitalise what's left of the ailing textile sector by attempting to attract new investment and increase the local production of organic cotton," the report says, "there is a belief in Swaziland that organic cotton provides a niche market. An ongoing organic cotton project is focused on growing cotton on lands currently unsuited for sugar production."

The IMF says government's plan to cultivate up to 4 000 hectares in the South of the country would satisfy the AGOA requirement for sourcing materials from Africa and would also complete a full vertical integration of that sector.

Further, the Fund says opportunities were provided to the sector when the US government agreed to extend duty-free access under AGOA to 2015 instead of allowing access to expire as previously agreed in September 2007.

"Swaziland can, however, only benefit from sourcing fabric from third countries through 2012. Success in this project would serve to revive a particularly disadvantageous section of Swaziland and contribute much in the fight against rural poverty."

“ Latest AGOA Trade Data currently available on

Click here to view a sector profile of Swaziland’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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