Buy Zimbabwe, a movement promoting locally produced products is pushing for the revival of the leather and textiles industries value chains in order to boost local clothing sector which is currently subdued.
This comes after the realization that in other sectors such as the local food manufacturing, market share has immensely improved due to strong value chains which were lacking in the leather and textiles industries.
In an interview with 263Chat Business on the sidelines of the Buy Zimbabwe Week, Buy Zimbabwe CEO Munyaradzi Hwengwere said the campaign should now shift towards resuscitation of the textile and leather industries.
“People cannot buy local when the local product is not there in the first place. We need a serious indaba on leather and textiles value chain because Zimbabweans identifies themselves in terms of what they are wearing. We need to take lessons from what we have done and has worked on the food side and convene a major indaba on what we wear,” said Hwengwere.
“Everything else is still primarily imported and yet these never used to be imported, particularly on the clothing from Bulawayo side, we used to be very good. Also we are one of the top producers of cotton in Africa. I think we need to get into really serious discussions in terms of the primary product and the end product. We produce cotton but we don’t wear cotton clothes, we have a lot of livestock on the leather side and yet we don’t wear leather shoes.”
Bulawayo used to be the country’s textiles and leather industrial hub at independence before being affected by protectionist policies by independent South Africa which was one of the major customers of local textile products. Things got even worse at the turn of the millennium when the economy took a major decline after the agrarian reform.
Currently Zimbabwe only uses 30 percent of its cotton due to limited industrial capacity while 70 percent is exported.
There have been notable attempts to revive some of the industries in these sectors especially by the government but it appears competition from cheaper imports and antiquated machinery remains the biggest stumbling blocks.
In October this year one of the biggest textiles firms, David Whitehead Textiles Limited launched a US$ 20 million resuscitation program to modernize the Chegutu and Kadoma factories expected to be complete next year.
Meanwhile, Buy Zimbabwe week has been progressing, mainly in Harare where there are roadshows to bring awareness of local goods to consumers and is spreading to Midlands, Bulawayo and Manicaland.
Since its launch in 2011, Buy Zimbabwe has played a significant role in raising awareness to locally produced goods which now constitutes an average of 80 percent of shelf space in supermarkets given that at the time the country was facing an influx of imported goods.
“The overall impression is that we have done extremely well on the food side in terms of if you go to your average retailer and Zimbabwean wholesaler you find that its primarily Zimbabwean in terms of the food stuffs. There are areas however where we need to do a lot of work we not doing well in terms of the electrical side, the hardware, the clothing, the shoes there are primarily imported.
“If you look at the food side, Zimbabwean products are now cheaper than the imported ones. We are doing well at pricing. It in areas where were not good were the price issue arises. The more the market has been dominated by Zimbabwean products; economies of scale have had a bearing on the pricing,” said Hwengwere.