The Ministry of Small and Medium Enterprises Development has reiterated its commitment to providing comprehensive support towards the growth of small and medium entrepreneurs in Zambia.
Ministry of Small and Medium Enterprise Development Permanent Secretary, Yvonne Mpundu, says this is because the government, through the eighth National Development Plan (8NDP) is pursuing a private sector-driven economic transformation.
Ms Mpundu was speaking when she officiated at the training of trainers in footwear and leather goods design, manufacturing craftsmanship, export readiness and transformative entrepreneurship workshop at Cooperative College in Lusaka.
She stressed the importance of working with organisations such as the Africa Leather and Leather Products Institute (ALLPI) among other stakeholders to prioritise the leather value chain to develop the economy.
Ms Mpundu said this is because the leather sector has the potential of enhancing economic inclusion and ensuring the participation of a wider spectrum of society, especially for women and the youth.
She acknowledged ALLPI’s collaboration with the government in accomplishing various activities which include training of artisans on industrial glove making, footwear designing and capacity building on cluster development and management.
“I believe this training programme has come at an opportune time as the government is implementing the eighth NDP, an economic blueprint guiding us towards the achievement of our national vision,” Ms Mpundu stated.
She noted that the leather sector is a quick-win industry which has helped some of the developed countries transform their economies.
The Permanent Secretary noted that Africa holds about a quarter of the global livestock population that constitutes the basis for leather industry development.
Ms Mpundu has therefore said Zambia has the potential to generate more revenue if value addition and linkages to the global value chain are enhanced.
Meanwhile, the Zambia Leather Industrial Association (ZALIA) said although the sector in Africa had many natural strengths, it risks missing out on opportunities to expand to global markets.
ZALIA chairperson, Mercy Mukupa, outlined some constraints to the growth of Zambia’s leather sector, including access to quality and quantity of hides at affordable prices.
Ms Mukupa said lack of access to affordable finance, machinery, raw materials and working capital for the SMEs is hampering the growth of the sector.
She however commended the government for proposing to modernise the TEVET institutions with state of art training equipment under the skills development fund in the 2023 proposed national budget.
Ms Mukupa said the measure will address the skills mismatch challenges in the Zambian economy.
Meanwhile, ALLPI footwear Consultant, Feraw Kebede, showcased the readily available machinery required in the manufacturing of leather shoes.