Why the textile industry is important in South Africa

Why the textile industry is important in South Africa

The South African textile sector has a rich history of contributing to the national economy and being a significant provider of jobs, especially for women. While most textile manufacturing facilities are situated in the Western Cape, KwaZulu-Natal, Gauteng, and the Free State, the economic advantages of this industry extend across South Africa.

This industry has been in existence since the mid-1900s, deeply intertwined with the diverse cultural traditions of different provinces in the country. In many remote regions, it serves as one of the primary sources of formal employment, benefiting numerous families through the sale of clothing, fabric, and traditional prints.

Romatex, established in the 1960s, has emerged as a prominent producer and supplier of eco-friendly stitch-bonded non-woven materials in South Africa. These sustainable textiles find applications in various products, including recyclable shopping bags and vertical window blinds.

Currently, Romatex employs approximately 270 individuals, with 142 of them being women. The textile industry plays a vital role for several reasons, which will be explained below.

Why the textile industry is important in South Africa


The textile sector currently accounts for approximately 14% of employment within the manufacturing industry, providing jobs for an estimated 80,000 individuals. It ranks as the 11th most significant export category in the country and contributes 8% to South Africa’s GDP.

This dynamic industry combines advanced, modern manufacturing techniques with traditional production methods.

Over R18 billion has been invested in the textile sector since 1994, facilitating the upgrading, modernization, and expansion of various businesses, including Romatex. Presently, our production capacity stands at two million square meters of stitch-bonded non-woven material per month, with plans for expansion starting in 2023.

The South African textile industry is competitive on a global scale, but its primary significance lies in domestic advantages, benefiting both small enterprises and large-scale local manufacturers. Despite significant job losses from 2000 to 2013, the sector has stabilized, and recent years have seen job growth.

Government-supported initiatives and substantial private sector investments have enabled the textile industry to regain its competitiveness and uphold quality standards and best practices. Recognized as a labor-intensive field, textiles and fabrics are given priority in South Africa’s industrial policies and support programs.

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