ZIMBABWE is set to launch its second leather industry strategy next month, which is expected to boost production in the region, a Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa) official has said.
BY TARISAI MANDIZHA
Speaking on the sidelines of the third Comesa Diplomatic Conference on Competition and Trade in Zambia last week, Comesa Leather and Leather Products Institute executive director Mwinyikione Mwinyihija said Zimbabwe was slowly catching up on leather production, adding currently there was a huge deficit on leather products in Africa.
“Zimbabwe is catching up, currently it is the only country in Africa which has gone through the first round of its strategy. It was slow in implementing things, but as of now there are working on the renewal of their strategy,” Mwinyihija said.
“We are going to relaunch the second line of the strategy. The beauty of it is Zimbabwe now has Zimbabwe Leather Development Council which means at public level will have people who can move with this particular sector to the next level.”
According to official statistics, the country’s leather industry production has declined by 90% with current production of 1,8 million pairs of shoes per year.
The sector currently employs about 5 600 people and this number is expected to grow as capacity utilisation increases.
There are currently eight tanneries in operation representing small, medium and large-scale players producing wet blue and finished leather.
“What was holding the sector was the new strategy, but it is set to be launched in the next two or three weeks. They brought it to me to read it through and prepare the final draft which has gone through stakeholder’s participation process because everything we do has to be participative.
“Once we have the policy in place, things will move and will also have one of the indigenous Zimbabweans running the biggest tannery of production,” he said.
Mwinyihija said in the past two years, Zimbabwe’s performance in leather production dropped, but has since picked up due to a number of measures put in place.
He said Zimbabwe was currently doing well with semi-processed leather, but by end of next year it should have its first production of finished leather.
Demand for leather shoes in Africa is around 150 million pairs and was currently importing 60 million pairs.
Mwinyihija said the free trade area will benefit Africa develop policy and improve the way of doing business, as it brings everyone on board.
“Producers in Africa need consumers in Africa. We can only build business when there is a consumer and a producer in Africa. When our small to medium enterprises is equipped, they can innovate and become competitive,” he said.
Latest statistics from International Trade Centre show that African countries have 15% of the world’s cattle and 25% of its sheep and goats, but produce only 14,9% of global output of hides and skins 8% of bovine hides and 14% of sheep and goat skins.
Exports of hides and skins have fallen in recent years to below 4%, yet leather is ranked very high as an export commodity in several African countries while the countries’ tanning capacity has fallen from 9,2% to 6,8%.