By Ntombi Mhlongo
The demand by investors for factory shells in the Kingdom of Eswatini is exceptionally high. This was shared by Eswatini Investment Promotion Authority (EIPA) Senior Executive Manager-Investment Promotion Dr Khanyisile Dlamini who witnessed the handover of the site earmarked for the construction of the Jonsson Workwear Factory in Nhlangano.
EIPA’s mandate is to attract, encourage, facilitate, and promote local and foreign trade and investment in Eswatini. Dlamini mentioned that 10 factory shells that can cover an area of up to 5 000 square metres are wanted by foreign investors who have made their interests known by engaging Dlamini’s office.
“These are investors who want the factory shells as of yesterday. I have not even touched on those who are in the pipeline. In terms of the number of interested investors and need for the factory shells, I would say there are 10 currently and they are from different sectors,” she said.
Dlamini said the lack of factory shells was a huge challenge for the country and to EIPA’s operations.
“One thing that has broken my heart is a new investor who was ready to set up shop in the country. The investor was going to manufacture cutlery and other items but left the country because we did not have a factory shell,” she said.
Elaborating, she said EIPA has strategies and target areas or locations where it wants to attract investors but that it cannot predict which investor will be co can never foretell that we want this much in terms of the amount of space for constructing foretell that we want this much in terms of the amount of space for the construction of the factory shells.
“All we can say is that now we want f around 1 500 square metres as we are guaranteed that there will be an investor that will take up that factory shell because of the demand that we have in the country”.
In terms of whether the laws of doing business in the country were good enough to attract investors, she explained that it was standard procedure that to have a factory shell constructed, investors would want agreements signed and be assured that the environment was conducive.
Asked if constructing the factory shells before the proposals from investors would not be a dangerous move, she said there will always be investors ready to use them.
Meanwhile, the coming in of Jonsson Workwear in the country is key as the company has made a name for itself in other countries, including Lesotho. The company, whose Chief Executive Officer is Nick Jonsson, is regarded as one that can make businesses stand out with a unified and professional appearance that makes an impact.
It offers services such as the conception and design of uniforms based on worldwide trends and fabrics and alignment with companies’ corporate identities. The Jonsson Workwear blended polycotton work jacket and trousers have become the cornerstone work garments of proud and confident workers throughout Southern Africa. Jonsson Workwear also tailors its garments to the requirements of its customers and the industry in which its customers are involved.
These garments are often required to resist conditions that may arise in a particular work environment. Jonsson Workwear manufactures over 30 000 garments a day at its factories. The company exports its garments to countries, including the UK and Australia.
Jonsson Workwear a fulfilment of economic recovery plan
The progress in the proposed construction of the Jonsson Workwear factory in Nhlangano is a fulfilment of one of the goals contained in the country’s Strategic Road map and the Post-Covid Economic Recovery Plan.
The two strategies were introduced by the current government as a means of reviving the country’s economy and the factory shells were highlighted as one of how the targets set out will be achieved.
With the current Cabinet having assumed office in 2018, it was in 2019 that the Minister of Commerce, Industry and Trade Manqoba Khumalo made it known that the ministry intended to create 70 000 jobs through the construction of 40 factory shells in four years.
While the plans were disrupted by the Covid-19 pandemic effects and the political unrest, progress was made regarding the plan and the handing over of the site for the construction of the Jonsson Workwear Factory.
Speaking during the handing over of the site to Construction Associates (CA), Minister of Commerce, Industry and Trade Manqoba Khumalo recounted how the government started engaging the Jonsson Workwear directors in 2019 about the whole project.
He said the directors eventually agreed and the search for a site around Matsapha was commissioned.
“We identified a place in Matsapha where we felt they could set up but then some challenges arose and they then changed their minds regarding the selected site. They requested that we should find them an alternative place,” the minister said.
He said the request for an alternative place was a blessing in disguise for the government whose wish is to take the factory shells to the rural areas instead of setting them up in the major towns. The minister said he was thankful to His Majesty King Mswati III who did not waste time but gave the go-ahead immediately after the site at Nhlangano was identified.
“The joint product will uplift the broader populace. The presence of the decentralisation of firms and other Government services to the other minor towns outside of the Mbabane and Manzini corridor, informs and improves the whole country’s business ecosystem.”
The minister added: “The Ministry is further convinced that this initiative will significantly decrease the migration of the youth from Nhlangano to the Manzini/Matsapha corridor and bring an improved town environment. Increased demand for business opportunities in the retail sector, agricultural sectors, transport sector and housing is also expected to be the spin-offs of this project.”
Besides the Jonsson Workwear, the government also handed over a factory shell to Kellogg’s Tolarum Eswatini (Pty) LTD, a Noodles manufacturing company. Also, the construction of the Gamula Factory Shell is ongoing and there are also plans to invest in similar projects in Ndzevane and Mantambe areas.
Between these four projects, the government will create at least 6 000 direct jobs and another 2 000 indirect ones.