The Sunday News
Judith Phiri, Business Reporter
A CHINESE investor based in Ethiopia has shown interest in working with local leather sector players providing them with footwear components, a move that is likely to lead to the growth of the sector.
Speaking to manufacturers and leather sector players at the Bulawayo Leather Cluster factory on Friday, Mr Kevin Zhang, the director and owner of Z Group, a holdings company that specialises in footwear components said there was a need to improve the quality of the shoe industry in Zimbabwe.
Z Group was established in 2017 and owns Dongguan Victor Shoe Accessories in China, Zhongshi Shoe Outsole and Accessories Manufacturing, ZZ Jelly Shoes Manufacturing and ZM Mould Manufacturing in Ethiopia.
“Z group has a complete shoe accessories manufacturing, import and export industry chain. We provide a one-stop service for purchasing shoe materials and you can get any shoe materials and chemicals from us.
This visit to Zimbabwe has made me excited and we are planning to have a deep co-operation with the Zimbabwean markets,” said Mr Kevin.
He said the purpose of their visit was to engage the local leather players and find ways to assist them improve the quality of shoes manufactured locally.
Mr Kevin said they had fruitful discussions with the Bulawayo leather cluster, different shoe manufacturers and the Leather Institute of Zimbabwe (LIZ).
He added: “The shoe products of Zimbabwe are fine but the weakness is the bottom part which is the outsole, it is too hard which sometimes makes shoes uncomfortable. The shoe industry in this country need more options for the outsole part and fashion design dependent on the shoe last which is the solid form around which a shoe is moulded.”
Accompanying Mr Kevin was Africa Leather and Leather Products Institute (ALLPI) Regional Design Studio Project Manager, Mr Preston Viswamo who is also based in Ethiopia. He said as ALLPI their goal was to broaden the market base of leather SMEs in Africa.
“As a Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa) institution that is endorsed by the Comesa Member States, Zimbabwe is also a signatory to ALLPI and it also makes contributions to the operations of this institution.
“As an institution, we have identified stakeholders who we think can help us in the development of the leather sector and this company Z Group that I have brought into Zimbabwe is our strategic partner because they are involved in the production of soles and lasts,” said Mr Viswamo.
He said the company that has helped the Ethiopian leather sector to develop especially the shoe manufacturing sector has since incorporated innovation.
Mr Viswamo said as ALLPI they felt that it was important to bring such a company into Zimbabwe and see how the country’s leather sector can benefit from it.
“The most interesting thing about this company is that they are willing, not themselves to come and invest in Zimbabwe, but help the country’s leather sector players to establish a factory that can produce soles as well as a factory that can produce lasts.
They are able to provide the equipment and do the installation, raw materials, technical support and train the people here in Zimbabwe until when the factory is fully operational.”
LIZ board chairman, Mr Cornelio Sunduza said the development was a work move and working with Z Group will ensure local manufacturers acquire footwear components and most of their raw materials at cheaper prices without any middlemen taking advantage of them.
Zimbabwe Leather Development Council (ZLDC) secretary Mr Jacob Nyathi said there has always been a huge gap in terms of accessing footwear components in the leather sector and such investors were pivotal to addressing such challenges.