Finweek English Edition - - IN THE NEWS -

Tens of thou­sands of job losses in Swaziland are a taste of what it could be like for SA to lose Agoa. The gov­ern­ment of Swaziland, with a pop­u­la­tion of just over 1m peo­ple, didn’t im­ple­ment a num­ber of US de­mands on work­ers’ rights and was ex­cluded from Agoa last year. The textile in­dus­try, which was built largely on the back of the Agoa agree­ment, has been hard­est hit.

This week, a sub­con­trac­tor to a textile pro­ducer, who asked not to be named, said she had cut al­most 10% of her work­force as US de­mand fell for Swazi tex­tiles.

Jim Wang, an ad­min­is­tra­tor at Tex Ray, a Tai­wan-based textile and gar­ment fac­tory op­er­at­ing in Swaziland, said ear­lier this year that his com­pany had re­trenched 1 500 peo­ple from fac­to­ries that were op­er­at­ing solely to sup­ply the US mar­ket. He said some of these work­ers had been lucky enough to find jobs else­where, but oth­ers had re­turned to “do agri­cul­ture at home”, in other words sub­sis­tence farm­ing. He said the com­pany was cur­rently try­ing to in­crease its sales into the much smaller South African mar­ket − also a duty-free zone − but “at the mo­ment we can’t in­crease enough to re­cover”.

Bil­lion­aire Natie Kirsh has been lob­by­ing hard to get the US to re­in­state Agoa in Swaziland. Kirsh, 82, whose for­tune far ex­ceeds that of the con­tro­ver­sial King Mswati III, kicked off his as­tound­ing ca­reer in prop­erty and re­tail in Swaziland. He has a deep at­tach­ment to the coun­try and a great deal of in­flu­ence around the world. How­ever de­spite his ef­forts, the US has thus far stood firm.

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