Northern Textile Mills (Nortex), subsidiary of the now defunct Merlin, after relocating from Zimbabwe to Botswana has ramped up production to 100 percent, which is a clear indication that the country is missing a lot in terms of investment. Also a number of companies have exited the country citing tough business environment following the introduction of the Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment Act.
According to the latest Bulawayo City Council (BCC) minutes, council officials went to Francistown in Botswana for an exchange visit in July and witnessed that Nortex, established in 1990, had risen from humble beginnings after relocating from Zimbabwe, into a massive and fast-growing entity.
It has captured a significant market share in the Southern African Development Community region including Zimbabwe and South Africa. It is currently targeting export markets in Asia, the European Union and United States of America and is set to be a force to reckon with in the global market in cotton towel products.
The company used to get its yarn from Zimbabwe since the country had the best quality but with the drying-up of that source, the company has had to look elsewhere, notably South Africa.
The company is at full capacity utilisation and the tour through the plant brought memories of the now-defunct Merlin Limited in Bulawayo. Unlike in Zimbabwe, Nortex, an impressive towel and napkin manufacturing company, enjoyed a lot of support from the government of Botswana, BCC observed.
There are incentives and a significant amount of trade facilitation. No red tape or interference from government, and the company provides the much-needed employment too.
The government has provided financial support to the company and many others in difficult times by paying wages and other incubation support to avoid retrenchments. It had ISO9001 certification and had invested in quality state-of-the- art equipment, hence its focus now on the global market.
The company is a water-based industry requiring about 400 000 litres of water per day. However, in view of the scarcity of the commodity, the company recovers 70% of this amount through recycling.
Merlin was once among the largest textile companies in the country with over 2 000 employees, but now has a staff complement of less than 253 workers and 27 managers. It is part of Bulawayo businessman Delma Lupepeâ€™s group of companies. At full capacity, the plant at Merlin had the potential to process 120 tonnes of lint per month.
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