LESOTHO National Development Authority (LNDC) Chief Executive Officer Kelebone Leisanyane has urged textile and garment manufacturing companies to be certified under the Worldwide Responsible Accredited Production (WRAP) to ensure they remain competitive and are able to contribute to the growth of the economy.
Mr Leisanyane made the remarks during a two-day workshop which started on Monday in Maseru held in conjunction with the Southern African Trade Hub to conscietise textile and garment manufacturing companies on the benefits of WRAP certification.
Headquartered in Arlington, Virginia in the United States WRAP is a non-profit team of global social compliance experts who work to promote safe, lawful, humane and ethical manufacturing around the world through certification and education.
To date, WRAP has worked in over 40 countries and registered 1 900 factories.
Mr Leisanyane said many benefits awaited a WRAP-certified company which included ease of trade in international markets and enhanced competitiveness.
“The subject of social compliance is of extreme significance to international buyers who are cautious that all factories be compliant with international standards in terms of child labour and forced labour, health and safety, harassment and abuse, discrimination, hours of work, compensation and benefits and freedom of association; hence we have joined forces with the USAID-Southern African Trade Hub to increase international competitiveness of the regional textile and garment industry by facilitating this awareness seminar in order to encourage all our manufacturing companies to be WRAP certified,” Mr Leisanyane said.
He added that the certification process would also ensure local companies meet the required international standards for trade in the long-term and even after the termination of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA).
AGOA is a United States trade preference programme that provides duty-free treatment to imports of certain products from eligible sub-Saharan African countries which include Lesotho.
“The LNDC continues to employ numerous efforts to ensure that the textile and garment industry in Lesotho continuously develops its competitiveness and becomes a sustainable driver of the economy,” said Mr Leisanyane.
“This certification process is not only to prepare companies for the future but beyond the 10 years in which we are gratified to share with you that progress in the renewal of AGOA has been made.”
The certification process is also meant to prepare companies that will participate at the Source Africa 2015 in Cape Town, South Africa in June; a clothing and footwear trade event that fosters linkages between buyers, manufacturers, and suppliers.
LNDC Public Relations Officer Ntsiuoa Sekete also stated that the corporation was prepping local businesses to be competitive beyond AGOA.
“We are developing strategies to diversify business opportunities that would sustain Basotho beyond the anticipated renewal of AGOA which is expected to be for the last time,” said Ms Sekete.
On his part, WRAP President and Chief Executive Officer Avedis Seferian said certification guaranteed industrial products’ compliance with international standards worldwide and an assurance of safety to potential buyers.
“Many consumers today are concerned about the conditions in which industrial products are produced such as non-tolerance of child labour or forced labour laws,” Mr Seferian said.
“Our organisation also trains factories to safeguard against working in disastrous conditions and to maintain the well-being of staff. In Lesotho, we have so far succeeded in registering three factories.”
Kopano Textiles Human Resource Manager Ariel Mokuoane said while the factory had enjoyed the benefits of registering with WRAP in 2010, the uncertainty on the renewal of AGOA had wreaked havoc on the operations of the company.
“Because of WRAP certification, the company managed to secure a buyer called Eclat with which we enjoyed a five-year trade relationship,” Mr Mokuoane said.
“Our mistake, however, was partnering with only one company because when AGOA could not be renewed on time, the company left to trade elsewhere in Cambodia.
“We are currently back to outsourcing other buyers and this time we will open more doors to trade with more buyers instead of only one.”