Revamp Textile Industry

The Zambian textile industry is among the country’s major economic players after copper mining and Agriculture, but the sector’s performance since the liberalisation of the economy more than two decades ago has been below expectations due to a number of factors.

This is the sector that has great potential to contribute immensely to Zambia’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) as well as the creation of massive direct and indirect jobs.

The country has more than enough raw materials as it has the capacity to produce more than 100,000 tonnes of cotton per annum to feed the industry.

But numerous challenges will continue to torment the sector as long as Government remains quiet on the needs of the industry to make it more competitive.

Stiff competition posed by the proliferation of cheap textile products mainly from Asia for instance, posed a serious threat which affected the performance of potential firms such as Kafue Textiles of Zambia (KTZ), Mukuba Textiles and the Zambia-China Mulungushi Textile (ZCMT) among other firms.

Some firms such as the Zambia-China Mulungushi Textiles (ZCMT) and Mukuba Textiles for example, have succumbed to this pressure, throwing hundreds of workers into the streets.

News that the Zambian and Chinese Governments have put the Zambia-China Mulungushi Textile in Kabwe on lease and that, a Tanzanian investor is earmarked to take over operations which will start in June this year, is encouraging as this will revive the economic status of the former mining town.

The company was a major economic player in that town as it employed more than 2,000 workers and created many more jobs through cotton farmers who supplied raw materials to the firm.

While this is good for the Zambian economy in terms of diversification and away from over dependence on copper, there is an urgent need for the Government to look into the various challenges the local textile industry has been facing generally.

Failure to take these measures into consideration, chances of survival for the ZCMT as well as the local textile industry as a whole, will remain slim.

If the Government will not take protective measures as some countries especially in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region have done, the pending revival of ZCMT will not be viable in the face of stiff competition from cheap imports.

Even the Government policy as announced by Commerce Deputy minister Miles Sampa to compel public institutions to procure at least 20 per cent of the local textile products to support the sector, will not be very helpful because firstly, the percentage is too low and secondly, the challenges will still remain.

The Zambia Association of Manufacturers (ZAM) is of the view that, some of the best ways to support the local textile industry is to completely slap a ban on some selected imported cheap textile products and related fabrics including salaula (second hand clothes) as well as, imports of textile raw materials such as cotton which have chocked the Zambian market.

The other alternative as suggested by ZAM is to increase import duty for the same products and raw materials to enable local firms compete favourably on both the domestic and international markets.

Failure by the Zambian textile industry to compete favourably has also caused its inability to penetrate the African Growth Opportunity Act (AGOA) market in the United States (US).

Revival of the local textile industry will bring alot of opportunities to hundreds of cotton farmers countrywide, enhance expansion of out-grower schemes as well as creation of massive jobs.

The sector can also contribute greatly to the country’s GDP as there will be increased exports that will help strengthen the Kwacha against other covertible international currencies and assist in the reduction of high poverty levels in the country.

Source : The Times of Zambia

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