The world’s consumers want cheap clothes and fast fashion. Because of its size ($2.5-trillion a year) and low skill requirements, clothing manufacturing is a large employer of low-skilled workers globally. In SA, 9.2-million people need employment, but the clothing industry currently employs fewer that 100,000 people. Knowing these facts, you’d expect SA to want a bigger piece of the action. But how can this be done? A few weeks ago, I listened as the executive director of the Centre for Development and Enterprise (CDE), Ann Bernstein, offered some ideas about this in a presentation of her plan to develop an export-only processing zone in the Eastern Cape. The proposed zone would focus on low-skill manufacturing, including clothing, by establishing employer-friendly labour market rules so that people could be employed at low wages and part-time. Businesses in the zone would have to export everything they made to ensure they did not compete with local producers, which would continue ...

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