Trevor Manuel's National Planning Commission is supposed to produce a strategic plan for the country in the next 12 months or so. Maybe they need to take a close look at the textile and clothing industry as an example of the sort of problems that need to be solved.

The manufacturing end of the rag trade has been in decline in SA for over a decade. And this pretty much sums up why:
Alex Liu, spokesperson for the Newcastle Chamber, cited a number of prevailing conditions that make it difficult for textile and clothing manufacturers to remain financially viable in South Africa.

These read like a microcosm of the broader economic challenges the country faces in 2010 and include:

  • Illegal imports of garments that undercut local manufacturers;
  • The unbeatable export subsidies China offers to its textile and clothing industry;
  • Insufficient import duties to protect the local industry against cheap imports;
  • An overvalued rand that makes it difficult, if not impossible, to export goods;
  • The willingness of South Africa's neighbours to pay lower wages to their workers (up to 250% less in Lesotho and Swaziland), and their workers' willingness to accept them;
  • The costs associated with training unskilled workers to the required levels; and
  • The impact of the HIV/Aids pandemic on staff turnover.

full story from M7G here
To get this right, we need to have the Departments of Labour, Trade and Industry and Finance working towards the same strategic plan, as suggested in the same story:
But, like Van der Rheede, Baard speaks about "a package" of measures, none of which, on its own, will succeed in turning the clothing and textile sector around.

These include reforming our industrial policy, our trade policy and our labour market policy, as well as making our currency more competitive for exporters and cutting out customs fraud and illegal imports.

"If we get all five of these half right, then we will be on-track to place the industry on a sustainable growth path," Baard said
What do you think? Good place for Trevor Manuel and his team to start?