The USAID Southern Africa Trade and Investment Hub (USAID TradeHub), in collaboration with its regional partners in Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, and South Africa, has embarked on a scheme to support companies in the four countries to produce and supply Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to the USAID TradeHub’s targeted markets in South Africa and the United States. Following the outbreak of COVID-19, most textile and apparel firms in the region were forced to stop their operations under lockdown conditions. This inevitably led to reduced production and ultimately loss of employment in this sector. In response, the USAID TradeHub and respective U.S. Embassies in the host countries initiated the PPE production scheme for textile and apparel firms to enable them to remain in business in the midst of COVID-19. PPE manufacturing activities kicked off in May 2020 and are currently in progress.
A total of 26 firms from Lesotho (8) and Eswatini (3), Botswana (7) and South Africa (8) were enrolled under this initiative. Some of these firms are continuing to record local sales of PPE, including Giant Clockwork (Eswatini), Afri Expo (Lesotho), Johane Garments (Lesotho), and Seshoeshoe Productions (Lesotho). Linkages facilitated by USAID TradeHub with U.S.-based buyers have resulted in regional firms opening discussions with a U.S. buyer, H.B. Enterprises LLC. U.S.-based Trade Promotion Service Provider [TPSP]) Bhavana World Project also identified 15 PPE buyers for whom they are looking to develop linkages with regional PPE-producing firms. This follows their successful conclusion of U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) registrations of 13 firms (out of the 14 from the initiative who were initially identified for support on FDA registrations).
The USAID TradeHub is actively working to engage U.S. based PPE market specialists to ensure that PPE export targets are achieved. As part of ongoing efforts to ensure regional firms are export-ready, some PPE-producing firms such as Liberation Clothing, Hippo Knitting, Dinapama, and Giant Clockwork have benefitted from one-on-one coaching sessions with a U.S. based market linkages specialist. The 13 FDA registered firms, including Giant Clockwork, have also been listed on Messe Frankfurt and Connecting the Dots Initiative (CDI) platforms to ensure potential buyer-seller linkages through exposure to wider buyer networks. Seven firms participated in coaching sessions with Andres Saldias (a USAID TradeHub contracted STTA), who provides technical support to U.S. buyers and Southern African exporters to generate exports of apparel products from the USAID TradeHub focus countries to the United States under AGOA). The coaching covered topics that include factory planning, marketing and pitching to customers and how to handle questions and respond to customer queries. These interactions will continue to ensure firms have the requisite skills and marketing material to meet the U.S. and other international customers' requirements. This initiative illustrates an innovative deployment of existing resources to meet new demands presented by the ongoing pandemic.