THE Leather Institute of Zimbabwe (LIZ) has begun a preparatory process for the establishment of the first satellite design studio for the country in Bulawayo, which is expected to boost production of high-quality leather products and impact positively on the entire region.
It is hoped that the design studio would help drive focus to upper value chain stratum and enhancing higher downstream impact to all stakeholders in the wider leather industry.
Renowned leather industrialist and newly elected LIZ president, Mr Cornelio Sunduza, said the idea of the satellite design studio was mooted sometime in 2015 and came into fruition in March 2020.
The Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa), with the approval of the Government, have confirmed LIZ as the focal point and host of the regional satellite design studio model.
“The process of conceptualising the design studio has already started with the LIZ aligning activities, which are already underway,” he said.
“The SDS manager will have to engage ministry and depending on how fast their process will take we are envisaging that we should be able to do that within the next two months.”
Mr Sunduza said a special general meeting was recently held in which councillors and subsequently the executive board were chosen from across the leather value chain integrating both large, small, individuals and tertiary institutions who have committed themselves to support and work with LIZ in fulfilling its mandate.
“This is a requirement, which the parent ministry (Ministry of Industry and Commerce) also required before the studio could be funded and operationalised,” he said.
“Now that this is behind us, we expect the chosen councillors to work tirelessly with the parent ministry in identifying and engaging a competent studio manager who will spearhead and drive this node within the value chain.”
Once a qualified manager is secured, Mr Sunduza said the project will be ready to roll. So far, LIZ has 25 confirmed members and still signing up, 17 councillors and 10 executive board members selected from across the leather value chain sub-sectors namely; tanners, footwear manufactures, leathers goods, small to medium enterprises clusters, and tertiary institutions like Bulawayo Polytechnic College.
The emphasis of the design studio was conception of designs, enhancing creative and technical designing that will ensure originality of locally produced branded products that are market informed and capable of competing globally.
The design studio will also serve as the incubation and services centre that will help the sector to develop designs that are customer oriented.
“Currently, LIZ, having been in idle mode for the past eight years, had to undergo some corporate governance restructuring to ensure its ability and capabilities to not only host the design studio but comply with international corporate governance principles,” said Mr Sunduza.
“The design studio will play a critical role in the leather sector recovering the lost market share and increasing capacity utilisation through skills development, which will result in more skilled players entering the leather sector.”
Comesa is providing the funding for the new studio and, through its specialised unit, the Africa Leather and Leather products (ALLPI), it working closely with the Government to facilitate the development of the Zimbabwe leather value chain.
The revival of the leather sector is being guided by the new Zimbabwe Leather Sector Strategy (2021-2030), which was launched in Bulawayo by Vice President Chiwenga sometime this year.