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CLOTHING manufacturers are targeting a 400 percent growth in employment figures to about 40 000 people in the next five years based on the growth of exports and trading of quality products.The forecasts have been boosted by the sector’s growth in exports into the region, mainly to South Africa, which this year are expected to top $3 million following the resolution of the problems relating to the Bilateral Trade Agreement with South Africa last year.

Zimbabwe Clothing Manufacturers Association chairman Mr Jeremy Youmans said the industry is now thinking outside the box to remain afloat.

“Our aim is to get to about 35 000 workers in five years, that’s a 400 percent increase and that will be based on trading of high quality products and growing exports,” said Mr Youmans.

“Last year we had a growth of about 10 percent. We moved to about 8 000 employees from about 7 500 and this year we are forecasting that another 1 000 people will be employed,” said Mr Youmans.

The ZCMA represents more than 100 registered companies in the formal sector. The formal members are those who are compliant with the NEC and up-to-date with their pension fund contribution.

Mr Youmans said in an interview that currently about six companies are exporting mainly to South Africa.

“We are supplying around the region. We have just started exporting so in value terms it’s getting up to about $250 000 a month and we would expect that to go up a lot more. We like to see that double at least but it could go up exponentially with time,” said Youmans.

The Bilateral Trade Agreement was signed in 1964 and in 2007 clothing exports to South Africa were suspended and the issues were resolved last year between the South African and Zimbabwean governments.

He however, said the actual growth resulting from the resumption of exports into SA will be felt from next year onwards.

“We have about six companies that are exporting and a lot more now into South Africa since we have resolved the problems with Bilateral Trade Agreement. It takes a long time to develop a market, do sampling to get people to buy, maybe around nine or 12 months to develop a market. So the real growth will be in 2016 17,” he said.

The Confederation of Zimbabwe president Mr Charles Msipa said that growth in the textiles sector is showing signs of improvement and employment figures stabilising against the general trend.

“Our clothing industry is showing some significant signs of improvement. They are growing their exports and fairly their employment figures seem to have stabilised,” said Mr Msipa.

Other initiatives that the clothing manufacturers are undertaking which are likely to feed into its contribution to the national economy include negotiating with some airlines to ensure ease of transporting exports.

The association has engaged some airlines with a view to coming up with an arrangement for either cheaper freight rates which sometimes go as high as $2 per kilogramme.

Clothing manufacturers import fabric while they export finished products and such an arrangement will reduce transport costs of raw materials and finished.

Source : The Herald