Wednesday, February 21, 2024

BEMA weighs on uniform importation ban

Botswana Exporters and Manufacturers Association (BEMA) has appealed to textile designers to form clusters to monopolize the design of school uniforms locally.

BEMA Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Mantlha Sankoloba told Sunday Standard that an instrument that was recently implemented by the government to ban the importation of school uniforms should serve as a motivating factor for local designers to join hands to supply the retail space.

She highlighted that clusters have proven to be an efficient strategy in meeting the demand adding that some of the media, and small-scale companies have grouped themselves to mitigate the current situation of supplying the demand.

“Some companies have successfully grouped themselves and they are supplying some of the retail outlets and the success part of it is that they can negotiate prices for raw materials because they are buying in bulk. We then have another group of the micro and small scale those in the rural areas who have been supplying school uniform and they have been there for so long and they are still doing that,” said Sankoloba.

She stated that it is quite pleasing to note that some retailers have long started purchasing school uniforms from local producers as a testament that there is capacity locally. Sankoloba also said she remains hopeful that given the new instrument imposed by the government, things will gradually start to change.

“Our strategy is that we need to encourage our small scale individuals to cluster themselves, whether they make a society or whether it is a cooperation because that way it is easier to mitigate issues around costs and it also makes it easier for Associations like ourselves to lobby for them for certain benefits such as the incentive,” added Sankoloba.

She said the government should take a leaf from how South Africa runs its textile industry.

She said South Africa has a program that is specially designed to capacitate textiles hence why they have been buying their school uniform cheaper.

Sankoloba further said not only has the South African government been assisting its textile designers but retail stores have also had a role to play in ensuring that the school uniform is sold affordably to customers.

“This is just the beginning, we will request such assistance from the government we are working on such a document to ensure that at least there is some kind of support from the government to ensure that some of the issues are mitigated and the cost aspect is also cushioned. Now that the borders are closed, we expect the demand for the local products to go high, and now remember that we are talking about producing in higher numbers and that means that we may as well touch on issues of mass production and this will somehow affect pricing,” said Sankoloba.

The Statutory Instrument No 76 of 2021 was published in the Government Gazette dated 24th September 2021. The Instrument restricts the importation of school uniforms and requires that an import permit be issued if necessary.

Clothing retail stores, among them PEP Botswana and Ackermans Botswana, went to court late last year to sue the Ministry of Trade and Industry over its restrictions on the importation of school uniforms.

According to court papers before Justice Reuben Lekorwe, the retailers were prompted by the government’s refusal to grant them a fifth waiver to continue importing uniforms into the country. 

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