THE newly-formulated National Leather Value Chain Strategy aimed at adding value to finished products in foot wear and garments will increase export earnings and contribute significantly to the economic development of the country.
Effective implementation of the strategy will also help the country contribute towards the attainment of national developmental policies and strategies such as the vision 2030, industrialisation and job creation.
The leather sub-sector, which is based on livestock and wildlife as sources of raw materials, comprises mainly bovine hides, sheep, goat and crocodile skins as well as those from other wild animals and reptiles.
Cognisant of the importance of the leather sub-sector and its contribution to the growth of the manufacturing industry, Zambia has joined other Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) member states like Ethiopia in launching the leather value chain strategy.
The Zambia Leather Value Chain Strategy 2016-2025 was launched by Government on December 9, 2015 with the objective of transforming the leather sector into a modern and competitive sub-sector.
COMESA secretary general, Sindiso Ngwenya said the leather value chain strategy would encourage the production and export of value-added products such as finished footwear, garments and other leather items.
Mr Ngwenya said the launch of the leather value chain in COMESA member states was done at an opportune time when regional intergration was key in economic strategies.
“The launch of the leather value chain strategies in COMESA member countries takes place at an opportune time when regional integration is being stressed as one of the key economic strategies and a rallying point for the development of the African continent,” he said.
Mr Ngwenya said the strategy was being implemented in collaboration with the COMESA Leather and Leather Products Institute (COMESA/LLPI).
Zimbabwe is also among the COMESA member states and launched the Zimbabwe Leather Sector Strategy on June 13, 2015, designed to encourage home production of leather goods.
Commerce Trade and Industry Minister, Margaret Mwanakatwe stresses that the objective of the strategy is to transform the Zambian leather industry from the production and export of raw and partly processed leather products into a modern and competitive sub-sector.
Ms Mwanakatwe said once the strategy was fully implemented, it would transform the leather sub-sector and serve as a guide in fostering industrial development in the sub-sector.
“It is Government’s considered view that once the strategy is fully implemented, it will transform the leather sub-sector and serve as a guide in fostering industrial development in the sub-sector.
“This strategy was developed through a consultative process that brought together technical experts from the COMESA/LLPI and Zambia involved in the leather sub-sector,” Ms Mwanakatwe said.
The minister said the Government, through the industrialisation and job creation strategy, identified the leather and leather products sub-sector as a priority sector with the potential to create export-oriented products as well as create employment.
Ms Mwanakatwe said the national strategy, once formulated, would accelerate in transforming Government’s policy into an action plan aimed at attaining the desired goals of industrialisation and job creation.
She said the development of the leather strategy would ignite activities in the leather sub-sector which would translate into industrialisation and job creation in the country.
The leather sub-sector has the potential to create export-oriented products that could assist in contributing to generation of foreign exchange.
but Ms Mwanakatwe notes that although the sub-sector has the potential to grow and contribute to the economic development of the country, it is faced with challenges that need to be addressed.
She cited the illegal export of raw hides which deprives local tanneries of the much needed raw materials, and the lack of trained tanners, shoe designers and technicians among others.
Other hurdles are the poor quality of hides, specifically brand marks and tick disease marks affecting the value of hides and skins, and the few operating tanneries which has resulted in shortage and high prices of finished leather.
“I am confident that the components included in the strategy will respond to the needs of the leather sub-sector in Zambia,” she said.
Meanwhile, the Copperbelt Leather Industry cluster has called on Zambians to start buying locally-manufactured shoes and other leather products to support the leather sub-sector.
Cluster coordinator Preston Viswamo said there was need to encourage people to buy locally-made shoes and other leather goods to support the sub-sector.
Mr Viswamo said the leather sub-sector had the potential to grow and contribute to the economic development of the country, hence the need to support it.
“I would like to call upon Zambians to support the local leather industry by buying locally-manufactured shoes and other leather products.
“The leather sub-sector has the potential to grow, create employment and contribute to the economic development of the country,” he said.
Mr Viswamo said it was time people started appreciating locally-produced leather products becasuse they were of high quality and competing well with other countries.
He said the launch of the Zambia Leather value chain strategy had come at a better time as it was going to help the industry become more attractive and competitive by addressing issues of quality and standards in the production process.
LLPI executive director Mwinyikione Mwinyihija said the institute is committed to working together with the Government to ensure that the leather sector was developed in the country.
Professor Mwinyihija said there was need to expose the local shoe and other leather products manufacturers in the COMESA region to more industrialised and advanced technologies if the region was to achieve the desired benchmarks.
“The sector will provide employment to so many people once fully in place and that is why we are emphasising on cluster development,” he said.
Prof Mwinyihija said it was important for the medium and small entrepreneurs involved in the manufacturing of leather products in the region to be exposed to various new technologies used in the industry to enhance the quality of products.
He said with the development of a strategy, it would be easy to implement some projects in the various parts of the region. “Our production is currently minimal to reach the demand in the region which is at 65 million pairs per year, and that is why we have a lot of shoes from other parts of the world with a lot of compromised quality. “With this strategy in place, we have to work hard to reach levels that will be acceptable,” he said. Zambia has the capacity to grow its leather value chain to half a billion dollars if all hides were transformed into finished footwear and leather products.
The development of a national leather strategy will make the local leather industry more attractive and competitive by addressing issues of quality and standards in the production process.
Source : http://www.times.co.zm/?p=74002