Malawi Government says that lack of a tannery that can process hides up to the crust stage is affecting the growth of the shoe making industry in the country.
The crust stage is the last in the processing of hides for it to be easily used by manufacturers of shoes, bags or belts.
Deputy director of Industry in the Ministry of Industry and Trade, Clement Phangaphanga said most Malawian shoe manufactures are importing leather from Zambia, Tanzania and even Kenya a situation that can be avoided if the country can process the hides here up to the crust stage.
Phangaphanga, however, said that the fact that the shoe industry has been shrinking over the years could be one of the reasons why companies have not been keen to invest in tanneries.
“We can look at the issues from two angles because while we have been complaining of finished leather products, the shoe industry has not been growing as expected. This has negatively affected the few small scale manufacturers who have to import the same hides we export to our neighbouring countries,” said Phanganga.
Phangaphanga who recently returned from the All Africa Leather Fair in Addis Ababa Ethiopia said Malawi gained invaluable experience at the fair to the extent that it recently organised workshops for those interested to venture into the shoe making industry.
The training which was coordinated by the Comesa Leather and Leather Products Institute took place in both the cities of Blantyre and Lilongwe.
One of the trainers, Jones Stamalevi of Mandoda Investments, said there is huge potential in the shoe making industry and Malawi should invest in a tannery that can produce hides up to the crust stage.
Stamalevi, who also accompanied, Phangaphanga to the Ethiopia event where he showcased his products said most of the customers who visited his stand were impressed with the quality of shoes on show.
“As a country, we have a great potential and I managed to struck some business deals which will enable me get semi processed shoes and finish them here before putting them on the market,” said Stamalevi.
He said if the country can invest in a tannery then many people will be interested to invest in the shoe making industry because currently importing hides is very costly.
“Some Ethiopian traders are very keen to come here and help us set up a tannery and we will just be waiting to see if their promise is going to materialise,” said Stamalevi.
The shoe manufacturing industry in Malawi started facing pressure following the flooding on the market of kaunjika shoes in the 1990s which are relatively cheaper as compared to brand new shoes.