ZIMBABWE is importing about 12,8 million pairs of shoes annually effectively losing thousands of jobs to foreign nations despite having the potential to satisfy both the local and export markets, trade promotion agency, ZimTrade has revealed.
Latest trade statistics show that the nation consumes approximately 14,3 million pairs of footwear per annum, made of leather, canvas, synthetics, and plastic.
With current annual production estimated at one million to 1,5 million pairs per year, it means that 12,8 million of the country’s footwear requirements are being imported, gobbling significant amounts of foreign currency, which could have otherwise been reinvested back home.
“It is against this background of untapped potential and significant contribution of the leather sector to the economy that ZimTrade has been working with leading players to improve production efficiencies and quality of products.
“We have been providing technical intervention programmes aimed at repositioning Zimbabwe’s leather sector as one of the country’s leading exporters and foreign currency earners,” said the trade promotion agency.
Data from the Industry and Commerce Ministry shows that at its peak in the 1990s, the sector used to 8 million pairs of shoes and with a low population density at the time, the nation was in a sound position to export the surplus.
The sector’s value chain has suffered huge reversals over the years due to significant reduction of the cattle herd and disruption of serious farming activities in the country owing to the fast tracked Land Reform exercise.
ZimTrade believes that a vibrant leather sector has direct positive spin-offs for Zimbabwe’s industrialisation drive, as well as efforts to improve the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth, balance of trade, fiscal and foreign currency revenues and the general livelihood of communities.
According to the Africa Leather and Leather Products Institute (ALLPI), the global estimated trade value of the leather sector is over US$130 billion a year, which is six times the value of trade in meat, and this figure continues to grow.
“This trade value shows that with the right support, the Zimbabwe leather sector has potential to set the country on a positive path towards sustainable economic growth, employment generation and poverty reduction,” said ZimTrade.
Although investment constraints have been affecting the development of the leather sector, Zimbabwe possesses enough human resources and land that can act as low-hanging fruits in repositioning the leather sector as an export giant.
Added ZimTrade, “To address foreign direct investment challenges in the leather sector, there is need to establish vibrant working groups which will look into the ease of doing export business, conduct a mapping exercise to ascertain the financial support in each of the nodes in the value chain and propose how these can be financed.
“There is also an urgent need to address animal husbandry challenges affecting the quality of hides to ensure Zimbabwean leather is competitive on the global market.”