Bulawayo leather cluster eyes regional markets

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THE Bulawayo leather cluster factory is targeting the Southern African Development Community (Sadc) regional market after securing its first order to Namibia.
The factory became operational in May last year after receiving €250 000 funding from the European Union through the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa).
In an interview with the Daily News on the sidelines of a recent tour of the factory by European Union (EU) ambassador to Zimbabwe Timo Olkkonen, the cluster’s secretary, Fungai Zvinondiramba, said the firm received an order to supply 1 000 pair of shoes to Namibia.
“We have started working on our order and we have so far produced 450 pairs of shoes that we intend to dispatch to Namibia next week. This is the first order we have secured in Namibia and we hope to grow from there,” Zvinondiramba said, adding that he was confident that they would meet the deadline.
The cluster has the capacity to produce about 3 000 pair of shoes per day but is currently producing only 150 pairs per day.
Zvinondiramba, however, expressed concern over what he termed “indirect exporting” of their products by middlemen, which he said is prejudicing them of much-needed foreign currency.
“Over the years, I have come to learn about what I call indirect exporting where our products hit foreign markets but we are not earning any forex from the exports. Locals order shoes, take them to the neighbouring countries and we do not benefit anything,” he said.
Zvinondiramba said they had entered into agreements with two firms in Zambia and Namibia in a bid to stop the indirect exporting of its products.
“In Zambia, we have entered into a memorandum of understanding with a cluster in Kitwe. The memorandum has not yet been operationalised. We will soon be meeting the leadership to discuss which products we will be exporting there to avoid duplication,” he said.
The leather factory currently employs 25 individuals. As part of efforts to economically empower the community it operates in, the firm is undertaking a three-week programme that teaches communities the basics of manufacturing leather products.
Zvinondiramba said they identified villagers from seven districts namely Binga, Lupane, Hwange, Nkayi, Tsholotsho, Bubi and Umguza and are teaching them how to make school shoes.
“We want these districts to make their own shoes and sell them in their districts. They will make the shoes to the upper level and bring them here to access state-of-the-art equipment,” he said.

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