THE European Union-funded Bulawayo leather cluster is looking forward to increasing exports of its products into the region after successfully securing a market in Namibia recently, an official has said.

In an interview with NewsDay Business after the European Union ambassador to Zimbabwe, Timo Olkkonen had toured the centre last week, leather cluster secretary-general Fungai Zvinondiramba said opportunities for their products in the region were abound.

“The laid-down capacity in this factory right now is 3 000 pairs of shoes a day. Currently, we are making about 150 pairs per day. In the past three days, we have been working on an order of about 450 pairs and we intend to dispatch them next week (this week) to Namibia,” he said.

“We have got the local market, the local guys. What happens is that they either come as retailers to buy products and resell at their shops, or (we get) guys who come and buy for their children or themselves.

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“There is this thing I have learnt over the years that we call indirect exporting, where actually your product hits the export market, but you are not benefiting. The guy comes here, orders 200 pair of shoes. We make the shoes and he takes them to Zambia.”

To counter indirect exports, Zvinondiramba said they were exporting their products directly into the region.

The project has 25 members who will be transformed into shareholders.

It is located at the Clothing Industry Pension Fund Industrial Park and was funded by the EU to the tune of about 250 000 euros.

In the next five years, Zvinondiramba said their vision was to have more women and youth running the factory.

They also intend to make the factory an export processing zone.

Government has been urging small-to-medium entrepreneurs to adopt a cluster approach in their operations so as to enjoy economies of scale, which include reduced taxes.

A cluster system involves housing business units that are in the same line of work under one roof and having them order materials communally.

The cluster system, first implemented in Bulawayo, allows business to grow effectively among members of the cluster.