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Last Updated: Wednesday, 6 July, 2005, 15:56 GMT 16:56 UK
Lesotho loses from global trade shift
Lesotho textile worker
Those with jobs fear they may soon lose them
As the leaders of the world's industrialised countries, the G8, meet to discuss calls to cancel Africa's debt and improve terms of trade for the world's poorest continent, the BBC's Barnaby Phillips went to Lesotho to investigate the decline of the new textile industry.

Long before dawn, the rush to Lesotho's textile factories starts through the darkness of the southern hemisphere winter.

Forty thousand people, almost all of them women, are wrapped in coats to keep them warm in the bitter cold.

Inside the factories, the hours are long. The workers only earn $38 (20) a week, making clothes, mostly for the US market.

In recent years, Lesotho has gone through an industrial revolution. A nation of cattle-herders and farmers was transformed by the global economy.

But the garment industry is now struggling. Two years ago factories opened every month.

'Unstable'

But the Chinese and Taiwanese owners have now gone home, after China was given better access to US markets and a fall in the US dollar.

This year several factories have closed. Thousands of jobs have gone.

Sewing machines in abandoned factory
The workers in this factory were given no warning it would close
In one factory, hundreds and hundreds of women are crouched over many sewing machines.

In fact there are 1,300 people employed here. But it is going through bad times.

Despite all the activity, it has laid off 200 people.

And managing director Jennifer Chen fears there may be more cuts in the future.

"It is very unstable. Many factories have closed down. And the remaining ones have reduced their size. And the production has declined both in value and in volume."

Lesotho cannot compete. Its clothes are now too expensive for America.

Dust

In a forlorn abandoned factory, the size of an aircraft hangar, all sorts of equipment lies around, including hundreds and hundreds of sewing machines.

Botatelo, sacked factory worker
I know there is a risk of Aids but I need the money
Botatelo, sacked factory worker
There are lots of cardboard boxes full of garments. Everything is covered in a thin film of dust.

None of the workers were warned that it was about to close.

They came back after Christmas and found that the owners had left the country.

Outside the factory stand the destitute women who used to work here. They don't understand globalisation but they are its losers.

"It is very difficult. Even the children, they didn't go to school this year because me and my husband we were working there both of us. It is very difficult because we are in need of a job," says Mabado, 30.

Punished

Botatelo is another woman who has lost her job in the factory. She also has to feed her children so she has turned to prostitution.

She charges $3 for sex with a condom. Without a condom she charges $7. She takes this risk in a country where about 30% of adults are HIV positive.

Factory workers warm themselves up before the early shift
Factory workers warm themselves up before the early shift
"I know there is a risk of Aids but I need the money," she says.

Without America or Europe guaranteeing better access to markets, more job losses are inevitable.

This tiny country has no defences against the shifting winds of the global economy.

Furthermore, Lesotho has worked hard to reduce its debts - now less than $1bn - and so is unlikely to qualify for much debt relief after this week.

"These initiatives are rewarding those countries that have been irresponsible, in that they have not met their obligations," says Lesotho Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili.

"We have been punished for meeting our obligations."

In this year of Africa, Lesotho has gained little.




SEE ALSO:
Lesotho textile workers lose jobs
12 Jan 05 |  Business
Bangladesh garments aim to compete
06 Jan 05 |  South Asia
Millions 'to lose textile jobs'
16 Dec 04 |  Business


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