Handmade Zimbabwean Shoes A Surprise Global Success

19 February 2019

In a tiny factory in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, leather cutter Misheck Sibanda is producing handmade boots and shoes as fast as he can in an effort to keep up with his soaring global demand.

Defying the odds in the midst of an economic downturn in the country, orders are piling in and new workers are being recruited at the Courteney boot company.

Founded in 1993, the firm has recently ramped up production to just 30 pairs a day, all of them made meticulously by 14 employees in a one-room workshop in the second city Bulawayo.

"We sell internationally - to the first world, even though we are a third-world country. That alone makes me smile," Sibanda said, deftly handling the soft leather skins, which once turned into boots will sell for between $140 and $500 a pair.

"People are tired of manmade materials, they want natural products like ours."

Exporting mostly to Europe, Britain, the United States and neighbouring South Africa, the boots are paid for in precious US dollars - the key to survival in Zimbabwe’s economy as it lurches downwards.

The country, hammered by hyperinflation 10 years ago, is again being roiled by a currency crisis, government mismanagement and fuel shortages.

Many businesses have folded and investors have gone elsewhere over the last 20 years, but the Courteney Boot company is rushing to keep up with orders.

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