Footwear and leather industry a giant in waiting

Despite challenges brought on by Covid-19 in many businesses in the country, including the footwear and leather industry,  the future looks bright for South Africa in its endeavour to turn its fortunes around.

During the pandemic, the footwear and leather industry declined and resulted in thousands of workers losing their jobs.

Trade, Industry and Competition deputy Minister Nomalungelo Gina said the shoe and leather manufacturing sector was a beacon of hope to enhance the economy and  in the process create jobs.

This week, Gina pointed out at the event hosted by the South African Footwear and Leather Export Council and the eThekwini Municipality Footwear and Leather Cluster in Durban, that it was high time for the industry to turn the tide and focus on manufacturing most sought-after products in the country.

The industry that produces footwear, leather, handbags and belts, has also seen declining sales due to counterfeit goods sold by illicit businesses resulting in further job losses.

“The government believes the industry will turn the corner and get back to  its pre-Covid profitability and growth era.

“We will continue to support this industry through incentives and ensure that the Retail–Clothing Textile Footwear Leather Master Plan 2030 targets are achieved.

“This industry is one of those that are labour intensive.

As the government, the biggest pressure we have is to create more jobs as fast as we can to solve social problems, including youth unemployment.

It is for this reason that we want more small, micro and medium enterprises and start-ups emerging within this sector to create jobs.”

Gina also encouraged the industry to take up opportunities that are emerging on the continent through the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) Agreement, a mechanism that seeks to improve intra-Africa trade.

The objective, said the minister, was to ensure the country’s companies become continental players.

AfCFTA connects 1.3-billion people across 55 countries on the continent with a combined gross domestic product of$3.4-trillion and  the potential of lifting 30-million people out of extreme poverty.

The minister said South Africans in the main consume what they do not produce, but challenged business to change the  status quo.

“We need to start wearing and eating proudly South African products and export more of these quality South African brands, which will translate into more revenue,” said Gina.

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