Bulawayo Leather Cluster to Relaunch Namibia Deal
Nqobile Bhebhe, Senior Business Reporter
The BULAWAYO Leather Cluster is poised to revive a shoe backlog of 1,000 Namibian private sector schools as its members are inundated with local orders as part of the positive fallout from attending the international trade fair in Zimbabwe.
Already, the cluster plans to penetrate the Zambian and Botswana markets.
Bulawayo Leather Cluster Secretary General Mr Fungai Zvinondiramba told the Business Chronicle yesterday that plans were underway to revive the Namibian deal.
The deal was originally struck in 2019 just before Covid-19 hit globally.
The order could not be processed due to long downtimes.
However, with the pandemic receding and global markets opening up, Zvinondiramba said now is the time to revive the backlog deal.
“Before the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, as Bulawayo Leather Cluster, we had a very good order from the private sector in Namibia in 2019. They wanted a first order of 1,000 pairs of school shoes. While we were dealing, the Covid-19 struck. However, we will return to Namibia this year to revive the business. The order is still valid. We need to make minor adjustments to it. The Covid-19 is almost behind us and it’s time to work,” he said.
He said the deal was achieved thanks to the high quality products produced by the cluster.
“We have the capacity to produce the backlog and we can do more. There is little shoe manufacturing in Namibia, so the quality of our products has attracted Namibians to us. Bulawayo has proper manufacturing infrastructure and we produce top of the line products hence the deal.
At its peak in the 1990s, the sector produced up to eight million pairs of shoes, but most of the established manufacturing companies later folded citing different factors.
However, with government interventions which included the launch of the Zimbabwe Leather Sector Strategy (2021-2030) to anchor increased investment and maximize value addition and beneficiation to promote export-led industrialization, the sector is now on the road to recovery.
Going forward, Mr Zvinondiramba said they have set their sights on regional markets.
“We are planning to go to Ndola in Zambia for their international trade show and also tap into markets in Botswana.”
He said shortly after the ZITF in April, they were inundated with orders and people buying their products.
“We have serious business inquiries from people who visited our booth at ZITF. This is proof of confidence in us as an industry. The Ministry of Women’s Affairs helped us exhibit at ZITF,” he said.
During his ZITF closing speech to the media, the Minister of Industry and Trade, Dr. Sekai Nzenza, applauded the improved standards of the leather products on display, saying it indicated that the added value and buying local were rapidly gaining ground.
She said that in the past, huge amounts of raw hides were exported to Europe, but with the launch of the leather value strategy, the leather is processed locally and feeds into the value-added matrix. Value addition and beneficiation are among the centerpieces the government hopes to foster rapid economic growth and job creation.
The leather sector is seen as a low-hanging fruit for Zimbabwe’s economy given the country’s competitive advantages in animal and crop production, which provide essential raw materials.