Import figures supplied by the Central Statistics Office (CSO), indicate that there is potential for the creation of a viable leather manufacturing industry in Botswana.

This would depend on sourcing a reliable supply of quality raw materials. It is estimated that around 200,000 cattle and 100,000 goats are slaughtered annually in Botswana.

The country imports between US$2.2-2.8 million worth of imported leather products per year. Agriculture and trade consultant, Dr Howard Sigwele stated that since independence, Botswana Meat Comission (BMC) had been exporting hides and skins, mainly to Italy, worth about US$2.2 million per year.

Analysts believe that the following measures should be taken to retain and improve quality standards: increase the price paid to farmers for raw hides and skins coupled with focused education and training on maintaining quality raw hides. Sigwele added that the establishment of a customised tannery by the private sector would also go a long way to improving the quality of the leather.

This comes after an announcement by Venture Partners Botswana that they have already approved the financing of a company to manufacture leather. Managing director of Venture Partners Botswana, Anthony Siwawa said the total project would be worth about US$4.2 million, with the ownership standing at 39% for Venture Partners Botswana and the remaining 61% to be shared between both citizen investors and foreign technical partners.

It is estimated that the project, to be located in Lobatse, would employ 87 people. Venture Partners Botswana are also said to be planning to purchase the BMC tannery which currently processes skins to the wet-blue stage only. If the acquisition deal is successful, it would go a long way in assisting them to process skins and hides into useable finished products for domestic manufacturers and exports. The company are scheduled to be operational by next February.

Source: Mmegi Business Week