BULAWAYO-Leather goods traders in Zimbabwe have decided to work together as clusters in a bid to make it easier for them to access funding as a collective.
This was revealed during a tour of various leather industry clusters by a delegation from Ngamiland, which had visited Zimbabwe on a benchmarking mission. The clusters have also created a revolving fund that is meant to assist those that have just started operations or are going through a rough patch. Cluster Development Officer, Sthabile Mlilo said during an interview with The Telegraph that Bulawayo alone has a pool of more than 2,100 craftsmen, adding that the number might increase should more members come forth.
“Clustering is important to all of us because it allows us to work as a team, and thereby use the same machinery. However the biggest challenge is that we all compete for the limited niche market,” she said.
However, most leather goods dealers have complained of intense competition from Chinese traders who flood the market with low cost but poor quality products. They also expressed concerns about some leather training institutions which are more focused on teaching theory even though the sector is mostly practical.
“Because the job market is saturated, university graduates end up with no choice but to join the leather industry as it is currently the only one moving. But they end up not being able to cope because they are weak on practicals. The trophy dealer’s license also disadvantages us because some of us cannot afford the annual charge of 1500 USD. We just wish the amount could be revised so that businesses don’t collapse,” said Raphael Honye, one of the traders.