Trade promotion body ZimTrade says textile and footwear industries made momentous progress on the export front in 2021 as the country continued to make inroads into regional markets.
Statistics show that exports of these products in the first eight months of 2021 to August, grew to US$32,3 million in 2021 from US$17,7 million in 2020 which translates to an 85 percent surge.
According to ZimTrade, the growth trails an increased demand for Zimbabwean merchandise such as protective clothing in regional markets such as Zambia, and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Traditionally Zimbabwe’s textile market sector exports products mainly to South Africa with an estimated export market share of 91,74 percent, Zambia (1,91 percent), Germany (0,34), Malawi with an exports contribution of 0,12 percent, and Mozambique.
“As more buyers are looking forward to source protective clothing from Zimbabwe based on the superior quality of local products and new markets are unlocked, projections are that exports from the sector will continue to grow,” said ZimTrade in its monthly publications.
Textile manufacturing was once an important industry in Zimbabwe but the sector came to a halt when local clothing lines became uncompetitive in the face of cheap imports, which flooded the market.
The sector suffered a number of difficulties in the period 2000-2010 a position that saw companies closing shop and a number of people losing their jobs.
Currently a small number, less than 10 percent manufacture for export despite the growing regional market and inroads being made into Europe in the past few years.
On the flip side in the footwear production footwear industry is on a recovery path after taking a battering in the economically turbulent years between 2001-2008.
At its peak in the 1990s, the sector used to produce 8 million pairs of leather shoes and most shoe manufacturing factories in the country have over the years shut down.
According to ZimTrade, the leather and leather products sector has the potential to contribute to the Zimbabwean economy through employment creation and income generation.
Resultantly, the sector was prioritised for development in the National Trade Policy of 2012-2016 and Industrial Development Policy of 2012-2016.
Presently the National Development Strategy (NDS 2021-2022) has also identified the leather sector as one of the key-value chains.
Additionally, the Government has pledged to recapitalise the leather and footwear sub-sector so as to increase industrial capacity utilisation and boost exports through the production of value-added products such as finished leather, footwear, and other leather products.
Towards the end of 2021 Finance and Economic Development Minister, Professor Mthuli Ncube indicated that his office was targeting the cotton sector value chain, especially garment manufacturing and leather value chain as they are export-oriented, a vital cog in the stimulation of the country’s exports earnings.