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MBABANE – The potential for growth in the textile sector’s exports is larger in the EU market than any other market, at approximately EUR17 million (E290 million).

This was revealed by European Union (EU) Ambassador to Eswatini Dessislava Choumelova during the unveiling of a new cottage factory in Manzini yesterday. The cottage factory is meant to empower emaSwati women and is spearheaded by Tokky Hou, Managing Director of Far East Textiles and Chairperson of Business Women Eswatini. The Ambassador praised Hou for the Vukani Bomake Concept - a rural development project focusing on training women on how to sew as well as subcontracting them to fill in orders for export, saying it had proven to be a force that has transformed the lives of many women and youth.

“This innovative and outside the box thinking has also caught the attention of the EU. Through the EU funded project ‘Promoting Growth Through Competitive Alliances’, we are in discussions with Ms Hou on expanding this pilot initiative ‘Vukani Bomake’ as a vehicle for further skills development and jobs creation. It is very clear the initiative has great scope for continuous empowerment of SMEs and young entrepreneurs,” she said.

processing facility

To this end, the ambassador said the project recently signed a MoU with Far East to expand this initiative to additional 150 women and youth to be trained and subsequently set up a processing facility where they can develop their own business supplying the local market, and to also work with Ms Hou on subcontracting opportunities. “The project will support the trainees with business management skills, product design and marketing skills, further reinforcing and expanding on what they have learned to access more market and generate income,” she said.

Ambassador Choumelova said many products in the apparel and textiles sector had tariff-free access to the EU, under SADC-EU Economic Partnership Agreement, but faced complex rules of origin to utilise those preferences. Such market access needs to be explored and taken advantage of through further cooperation. She said the flagship initiative was meant to support women and girls from marginalised backgrounds to tackle poverty and hunger, provide decent work, while tackling waste management. She said supporting Eswatini towards better gender equality and elimination of gender-based Violence (GBV) was among her priorities.

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