Pittards has plans to grow its Ethiopian operations to help contribute toward its $60m annual revenues. At the moment, its factories in Addis Ababa and tannery south of the city employ about 1,200 locals, which is due to rise to around 5,000 within five years. Plus, a fourth factory is already built and poised to add to the two million square feet of quality leather produced for export.
Low-cost labour and duty-free status for exported manufactured products are particularly attractive to Western firms like Pittards, despite Ethiopia not being the largest supplier of skins, producing about 9.5 million annually compared to New Zealand's 30 million. In addition, Pittards' environmental efforts to improve local skin quality should increase Ethiopia's overall supply.
As a developing nation, Ethiopia faces many challenges, but improvements in bureaucracy are establishing it as a preferred country in terms of economic development in Africa. It's own government is especially eager to improve annual leather exports to $500m the end of 2015, from $123m last year.