Zimbabwe’s new leather strategy aims to boost exports five-fold
A strategy designed to improve the livelihoods of people working in the leather industry in Zimbabwe has been officially launched, after more than a year of intensive work and involvement by the industry. The Zimbabwe Leather Sector Strategy was developed with the support of the International Trade Centre (ITC) and the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), under ITC’s Programme for building African Capacity for Trade (PACT II), which is funded by the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA).
Zimbabwe’s leather industry is currently working at about 20% of its capacity despite market opportunities in the country, in the COMESA region and abroad, according to industry experts. Until 2000, Zimbabwe produced 17 million pair of shoes, falling to just 1 million in 2011 due to a lack of raw materials. In 2011, 84% of raw hides and skins were exported, leading to a serious shortage of raw hides for local industry and forcing half of the country’s tanneries to shut down. Had Zimbabwe found a way to tan and use the leather in the country and sell the finished products abroad, it would have achieved far higher export earnings. “If all the raw hides and skins in Zimbabwe are transformed into finished goods like footwear, garments and other leather goods, the industry would balloon to US$ 2.5 billion from the present value of US$ 450 million,” said COMESA Secretary-General Sindiso Ngwenya.
The objective of the Leather Sector Strategy, which has unified all value chain players, including private sector and support institutions, is to encourage the production and export of value-added products such as finished footwear, garments and other leather items.
Mr. Ngwenya said: “The Zimbabwe leather value chain strategy 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.”
The strategy was officially launched by the Government of Zimbabwe in Bulawayo on June 13th. Professor Welshman Ncube, Minister of Industry and Commerce, said: “The national Leather Sector Strategy seeks to facilitate the leather sector and related sectors of the economy towards export-orientation and international competitiveness, whilst ensuring that Zimbabwean firms and households enjoy continued access to a wide range of high quality leather goods.”
Hernan Manson, ITC Project Manager, said: "The strategy is a platform for the industry to call upon government and support institutions to agree on joint actions for the development of the leather sector. It also enables investors to select entry points for revitalizing the industry. ITC, COMESA, the government and the donor community are all facilitators in this process. Until today, the private sector has been called to meetings but now the private sector is the one calling for meetings.”
Leading up to the launch of the strategy, representatives from the European Union delegation in Zimbabwe, the Embassy of Brazil, ZimTrade (the national trade development and promotion organization), the Ministry of Industry and Commerce, the Ministry of Agriculture, COMESA/Leather and Leather Products Institute, Practical Action, ITC and private sector investors from Ethiopia were guided by the local private sector-led Strategy Coordinating Committee to visit large, medium and small businesses, financial institutions and other national support institutions involved in the leather industry. The objective of the leather value chain scoping tour was to provide participants with first-hand experience of the leather sector, to assess its performance and identify the support that needs to be available through the strategy, as well as new investment and business opportunities.
The scoping tour approach is part of ITC’s methodology to support awareness building, implementation commitment and resource mobilisation. It brings strategies to life by allowing beneficiaries and local stakeholders to show exactly how their sector is performing. It is also a practical way of enabling donors to undertake rapid needs assessments.
Hopewell Zheke, Programme Team Leader, Practical Action, said: “The scoping tour has provided us with an opportunity to understand the leather sector and the strategy through real-life examples of how the sector is performing. In my professional life, I have had the opportunity to see many strategies designed, developed and launched, but I think this strategy ranks among the top three, if not the best, in terms of the way it is structured. To me, it is very practical and we can start to implement from today.”