My grandmother worked in the textile industry for decades and my father was able to afford university thanks to SACTWU’s bursaries. I wouldn’t have the life I did if my dad hadn’t graduated from university; by extension, I wouldn’t have the life I did if it weren’t for the South African textile industry. This is my story of how producing textiles locally changed lives in South Africa and it’s the story I remember when I buy South African-made products.

As it’s become glaringly obvious that our country’s ills cannot be cured without economic empowerment, I’ve become increasingly interested in different economic policies that promote job creation which in turn helps treat various other problems. So, I took social development and economics this year. Economics has really helped me understand and articulate various issues and policies in our country. Without my two economics courses, I wouldn’t be able to articulate much of what I’m writing on this blog.

There’s a concept we learn in microeconomics called the factors of production and their remuneration. In short, there are four factors (or players in the economy) which produce goods or services for which they are paid. Land, natural resources, can be rented; labour, the work done by humans, can be hired; capital, machines, earns interest; and entrepreneurship can earn profit. This is the basis on which I have created the following tiers of South African brands:

A bag made in China by a South African brand A bag made in South Africa by a South African brand
Labour  x
Entrepreneurship x x

It’s fairly straight-forward to check whether an item has been produced by local entrepreneurship and labour. Understanding the item’s background in terms of land and capital, though, is more tricky. Something may be produced in South Africa but who owns the land that the factory is on and earns the rental income? It could be foreign companies. In terms of capital, it’s necessary to check the origin of the machines or buildings used in the production process. Needless to say,  this is an exhausting process which I have not yet gathered energy to put myself through.

What is clear, though, is that an item that has been produced by both local labour and entrepreneurship is more local than one produced by local labour but sold by an international brand or vice versa. It benefits South Africa much more directly.

Another economic concept which is widely understood is the interaction between demand and supply. If demand for a product increases, so too will supply thereof, thereby increasing the labour force. In our capitalist economy, we cannot expect businesses to just churn out local goods if there is no demand for them. By shopping South African products, we as consumers are demanding local goods and businesses will have little choice but to supply local goods.

This is the ethos behind buying local and #WearSA. Everyone in South Africa has at some point complained about homeless people or expressed frustration with the unemployment rate but it’s much more valuable to actually ask why there is so much unemployment and how we can change this. Many local industries have suffered due to cheap foreign imports or inability to produce quality goods. Fortunately, the latter is not responsible for the decline in South Africa’s textile industry. Let’s shop consciously and #WearSA.

South African clothing

I’ve probably been consciously trying to shop local for the past five or six years. It’s been a slow conversion that’s by no means complete. There are barriers to shopping local (higher costs and having to search for local brands) and it’s not something everyone can do on the same level.

In the last few months, I’ve set myself the challenge of wearing at least one South African item every day. About 80% of the time, I’ve succeeded. To do this, I realise you need to have different types of local clothing: shoes, tops, bags etc. Shoes and bags are the best shortcuts; classic styles work with everything. And although you’re not spending more of your own money, you are at least advertising South African brands: when people ask where you got that one item, you can proudly say it’s South African-made.

I’m working towards having one South African-made item for every piece of clothing. Every month, Me in Mzansi will be featuring items currently on sale that are proudly Mzansi, as well as drop-dead gorgeous. Keep a look-out for inspiration on how to proudly #WearSA

Jenna Solomon

Me in Mzansi is about my life and how much of it is directly related to my nation. It’s just one of 56 million lives but I am sure it shares many similarities with those of my fellow South Africans: most significantly, a love for a country that we so passionately want to reach its potential.

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