Small and Medium Enterprises Development Institute (Smedi) says the leather industry has the potential to grow the country’s export base.
Speaking during the official opening of Leather Studio and Garments and Textile Incubation Centre at Chichiri Trade Fair grounds in Blantyre on Friday, Smedi board chairperson Lance Mbewe said the studio is a game-changer, stressing that there will be a reduction in imports of leather products, thereby boosting the economy.
“The market for leather products, so far, has been untapped for Malawi. Country statistics show that China is the leader in the leather sector with over 90.6 billion pairs of shoes. On the other hand, Africa produces only 900 million pairs of shoes and it is only a few countries that are actively participating in the industry,” he said.
Mbewe said leather has the potential to expand the export base, income generation for small and medium enterprises and also providing employment opportunities.
However, he said there is need for players in the industry to add value to local products to survive on the international market.
On his part, Minister of Industry, Trade and Tourism, Henry Mussa said the design studio is the beginning of the transformation of the economy from reliance on importing and consuming to producing and exporting.
“For a long time, Malawi has been exporting raw produce and we are now saying that it is time to add value to our products,” he said
Team leader for Economic, Trade and Governance Section of the European Union (EU), Jose Maria Medina Navarro, said they funded the project to support the creation of jobs, especially for the youth.
The K250 million leather design studio has been constructed with funding from the EU through the Malawi Enterprise Productivity Enhancement (Mepe) project under the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Tourism.
Despite a good turnover of hides and skins annually, Malawi lacks the capacity to process its raw materials in the absence of a tannery—a place where hides and skins are processed into leather. As a result, Malawi loses about K70 billion due to import costs, according to Smedi.