Report By The Chairman & Executive Director
2009 marked the year when SAFLEC started to become financially viable with the technological fund levy portion coming in regularly each month. It also marked the first significant matching grant from the DTI which was received in December.
It is also pleasing to see that footwear exports reflected growth of 14.5% in 2009 to 2.4m pairs from 2.1m pairs in 2008. In value, exports increased by 26% from R138.0m to R174m in 2009. The average unit price of footwear exports from South Africa increased from R64.98 per pair in 2008 to R71.73 last year. It is worth noting that exports for 2009 now represented 5% of local footwear production.
Zimbabwe was the largest destination of South African footwear exports in 2009 both by volume and value. Exports to Africa are approaching the 2 million pairs mark at 1.881 million pairs valued at R130.7m, representing respectively 77.4% and 74.9% of total RSA footwear exports. South Africa exports to 35 countries in Africa (excluding BLNS countries).
The growth in total footwear exports to Africa in 2009 was 6% in volume terms and 26% in value terms. The growth of exports to countries such as UK and Israel show that there is a broadening of the export market, thereby accounting for higher export growth outside of Africa as opposed to growth in Africa.
This export council has a very clear mandate from most members on how to facilitate export promotion. At this point in time, SAFLEC does not participate in National Pavilions or trade shows as they are not considered to yield economically viable results. The major focus is in facilitating individual company efforts and in exploring inward or outward selling missions. To this end, regular updates of footwear trade shows have been compiled in an annual calendar format and circulated at frequent intervals.
A major task has been to build a comprehensive database of all members to ensure effective communication is maintained. This is an ongoing process as more fields are added.
One of the major focus areas for the export council is training. For the industry to be able to compete internationally, it is vital that the quality and efficiency of the work carried out on the factory floor meets international benchmark standards. SAFLEC has initiated a process in conjunction with SAFLIA to train sewing machinists as part of a broader, longer term, skills upgrade programme. Through this initiative and others to follow, SAFLEC hopes to assist in capacitating the industry to become export ready. This type of action will become part of a greater initiative under the Shared Resource Centre programme of the Customised Sector Programme (CSP) for the industry.
In related training initiatives, SAFLEC has worked with the dti to facilitate workshops relating to the dissemination of information concerning the various incentives available.
As with most member driven organisations, participation in the structures needs serious consideration. We need to rebuild representation at both Board and Exco levels. A great deal of pressure is being exerted on SAFLEC. Again the nature of business is such that people are far more hands on and do not have the luxury of time at their disposal to commit to SAFLEC structures. I am very pleased to report that there has been some encouraging support from various members and we have a diverse group of people that have made themselves available.
I extend my thanks and appreciation to all of you.