Clothing and textiles


Government support for the textile and clothing industry, along with footwear and leather, has enabled these industries to survive cheaper imports post-1990. Support will continue, with the aim of import substitution and manufacture for export, to protect this strategic industry.

Value proposition

Various customised sector programmes have stabilised the industry, helping it to modernise and improve its competitiveness. Government support for the clothing and textiles sector amounted to at least R41 billion in 2015/16 from 1994/95 to 2014. However, support for the clothing industry goes beyond incentives and tax breaks; government has also mobilised investment and used procurement policy to breathe life into the sector – and a more competitive currency encourages exports.


South Africa’s National Cotton Sector Strategy, completed in 2016, has profound potential for retail sector import replacement and for filling manufacturing capacity gaps and creating employment. Specific sub-sector strategies – for example cotton-spinning – will be developed as well as strategies for weft knitting, dyeing and finishing and retail.

The South African market increasingly reflects the sophistication of First World markets and the local clothing and textile industry has grown accordingly to offer the full range of services from natural and synthetic fibre production to non-wovens, spinning, weaving, tufting, knitting, dyeing and finishing.

Clothing products benefit from duty-free access to the US market under the AGOA trade deal.

Exports account for R1,4 billion for apparel and R2,5 billion for textiles, mostly to the US and European markets, but there is enormous potential for exports to the rest of the African continent, as trade barriers fall, and regional integration takes hold.