The Deputy Minister of Trade, Industry and Competition, Ms Nomalungelo Gina has hailed a newly-established KwaZulu-Natal leather and footwear company describing it as a “game-changer” that speaks to government’s objectives to change the ownership profile of the country’s economy in general, and the clothing and textile industry in particular.
She also said the company would contribute in promoting government’s localisation drive. Gina was speaking at the opening of the new Lighthouse Footwear and Leather company’s factory and skills centre in the Northern KwaZulu-Natal town of KwaDukuza on Tuesday.
According to the Director of Lighthouse Footwear and Leather, Mr Gugulethu Xaba, the company was formed in partnership with Zethu shoes, a long established footwear business, to manufacture shoes and to provide skills in shoe-making to young people in particular.
“The initiative being launched today, if correctly executed, is going to be a game-changer. We want to see future enterprises in our villages from cow hides beneficiation, feeding to these factories,” said Gina.
She added that she believed the content of the training offered to young people at the centre would also infuse business skills within the sector so that those who have aspirations to start their own shoe and leather enterprises can be assisted, with government support, to start theirs.
“I am raising this because, whilst the industry across the country has many black African workers as designers and in tanneries, the industry is still overwhelmingly white and Indian-owned. We need to change the ownership patterns and diversify the racial profile in the ownership,” said Gina.
Gina expressed excitement that the partnership and the establishment of the factory were mainly about skills training and development, especially targeting African blacks in rural areas, townships and peri-urban areas, to become artisans in the leather and shoe industry.
“I am also happy that one of the dtic agencies, the National Lottery Commission, has availed funding for this project. We are all under extreme pressure to create jobs and change the direction that the economy is taking.
“The recent figures by the StatSA released requires that we give support to everyone wanting to create opportunities for our people. Any multiplier effects that will result in more employment will always be our natural ally. This initiative will also help us a lot in maximising the localisation drive,” said Gina.
Xaba said in the footwear and leather sector, over 200 million pairs of shoes were imported into South Africa annually, and not much has been done to substitute the imports.
“We have identified this as a gap and an opportunity to be filled. Our strategy is to develop footwear production skills and establish small and medium sized factories across South Africa. As such, our venture is focused on skills training as the means to achieve the objective of producing shoes locally in order to replace imported footwear. Our new factory and skills centre have capacity to employ 50 full time staff and train 80 new learners a year,” added Xaba.
He added that the company currently employs 15 full-time staff, many of which are young people who, as recently as three months ago, possessed no technical knowledge or creative ability to design and manufacture footwear or work with leather.