Mukakaphetsa ng’ombeyo chikopa muwapatse abusa, zammimba ndi mutu atenge amene aphe ng’ombeyo.”
“When you have killed the cow give the hide to cattle herders, offals and the head should go to the one who has slaughtered the cow,” that is how Elliot Joloza a cattle owner at Mponela gives instructions once a cow has been slaughtered from his kraal.
To Joloza and other cattle owners in Malawi, the hide,offals and the head are considered valueless and thus given away.
But wait a minute. A group of businesspersons from Zambia, Tanzania, Mozambiquie, Zimbabwe and even Kenya have found gold in hides as they buy this product at give away prices to process them in their countries.
After they have processed the hides, they are sold to shoe manufacturers around the world at very exorbitant prices.
This is one of the reasons why the shoe making industry in Malawi has stagnated as many individuals who are in the shoe making business have to import the hides from Kenya and the other surrounding countries.
Even the Malawi government has admitted that the country is losing out due to the lack of a tannery and skilled hides processors.
Deputy Director in the Ministry of Industry and Trade Clement Phangaphanga 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.
Says Phangaphanga: “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.
“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.”
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 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 says 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 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 says 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,” Stamalevi says.
The Local Development Fund (LDF) director for urban development Mike Moyo says the shoe manufacturing business is not growing in the country because most hides are exported to neighbouring countries such as Zambia, Zimbabwe and Tanzania.
Said Moyo:” As a country we should invest in a tannery because that is when we can be processing the hides and exporting them at a much higher price. In Mzimba for example there are so many goats and cattle but who benefits from the hides? Foreigners from Tanzania and Zambia. Ironically when the hides have been processed we buy them at a high price.”
Moyo whose organisation recently organised a training for trainers in hide processing and shoe making in conjuction with the World University Service of Canada (Wusc) said it is important that all the hides and skins tannered here must find a proper market unlike the situation now when traders are making huge profits exporting the hides at Malawian shoe makers expense.
“As the population is growing many Malawians want shoes that are durable and our hides can give us the best shoes. What people should know is that the shoes they buy from outside are made from the same hides that we export on a daily basis,” he said.
Moyo further stated that, “Once we have trained a lot of people in leather processing and have graduated they will be able to form a cooperatives and purchase most of the hides in the country besides teaching others interested to venture into the shoe making industry.”