Zimbabwe’s Apparel Industry Struggles Despite Apparel Exports Increase

The apparel industry in Zimbabwe has experienced a great deal of difficulty over the last decade, and continues to struggle due to its poor economic performance, incompetence with cheap imports, low productivity, out of date technology, and lack of investment and government support. Even though many challenges remain in Zimbabwe’s apparel industry, there is still something worth noting, as recently the country’s apparel exports have increased.


According to the data from ZimTrade, Zimbabwe’s export promotion body, the country’s clothing and textiles manufacturing sector has experienced substantial growth over the past five years, with export value growing from $3.1 million in 2012 to $8.2 million in 2016, representing an impressive growth rate of 165% over the five-year period. ZimTrade also reports that Zimbabwe’s major export destination for clothing and textiles was South Africa, with a share of 80%, while the rest of Sadc contributed 16%


The apparel sector in Zimbabwe currently operates at 30% less than its full capacity, which is leading to the closure of an increasing number of textile mills in the country. The industry that once used to employ over 40,000 people in peak time now employs only 8,000 workers.


Zimbabwe is flooded with cheap textile and apparel imports from leading Asian countries, especially from China. These low-priced textile and apparel imports have had a negative impact on the local manufacturing sector in Zimbabwe. Many local textile and apparel manufactures are calling for government support to ban cheap polyester knitted fabric and finished blankets entering the country, and to adjust the tariffs.


In 2015, Zimbabwe’s government announced that they would make a concerted effort to boost the country’s textile and apparel sector. Blanket imports to Zimbabwe have plunged by 98%, from US $500,000 worth of products to US $11,000 since the removal of the commodity (blankets) from the open general import license.


In addition, Zimbabwe’s government has also banned the import of second-hand clothing, and proposed to introduce a ‘manufacturers’ rebate duty’ on critical inputs imported by approved textile manufacturers covering spare parts, yarns and unbleached fabrics, among others. The new initiative forms a part of the extensive initiatives that the government is undertaking in order to grow the economy.


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