Applications from the troubled textile industry have started rolling into the Department of Industrial Affairs, the lead agency tasked with administering government's P38 million-rescue package for the sector.
The department, which is housed within the Ministry of Trade and Industry, has established a working committee with the Botswana Exporters and Manufacturers Association (BEMA) that represents the majority of textile industry players.
The committee is expected to meet this week to, among other matters, begin assessing the applications that have been received so far.
Industrial Affairs Director, Violet Mosele told Mmegi that by yesterday, three applications had come through BEMA.
"We would like to encourage those in need of assistance to apply because the facility is in place," she said.
Department officials explained that applications would be received for the duration of the two-year rescue package, with payouts made monthly to successful applicants. The officials expect the number of applications to increase, as the industry warms up to the assistance on offer. In addition, government recently extended the criteria for assistance, enabling the package to reach more textile companies and their employees.
Government's assistance to the textile industry comes after a year in which thousands of jobs were lost in the sector, as global recession took its toll. In addition, pressure from cheaper Asian textiles and less support
Prior to the recession, textiles were Botswana's chief non-mineral exports, raking in P2.7 billion in 2007, before declining to P1.8 billion in 2008 and P1.4 billion last year, according to the Central Statistics Office (CSO).
From peaks of more than 6, 000 employees in the years before 2009, the textile industry has shrunk by more than 80 percent. Data from the Central Statistics Office (CSO), indicates that prior to the recession, the textile industry, including preparation of textile fibres, synthetic material, clothing and other wearing apparel, was among the fastest growing sectors of employment creation in the economy.
The textile industry employed 6, 633 people by March 2008, rising to 8, 019 by June 2008, which is the last period for which official statistics are available.
This growth, coupled with the fact that the textile sector is a generator of low skill, youth-oriented jobs, providing employment avenues for thousands of out-of-school youths, particularly women, is among the factors that influenced government's decision for a rescue package.