The Pride of Made in Ethiopia
Once, some ten – twelve years ago, shoe manufacturing industry owners were at the late Prime Minister’s office to talk about some of the most dreadful challenges they were facing. One of the major grievances they presented to the Prime Minister was that imported shoes have swamped the local market and they couldn’t compete with them. “People are not buying our product and we will be out of business” they told him. After listening to all their complaints, he posed a question which should have embarrassed most of them; “Is there any one amongst you who are wearing these locally produced shoes now?” A long silence resided in the hall. There was no one. The problem is, the Prime Minister said, “the quality of your shoe is beneath the standard”. He then informed them that if they improved the quality of their products not only they could compete and sell them in the local market but they can export and earn substantial foreign currency for their country.
That seemed farfetched and impossible at the time. And this wasn’t what they wanted to hear. They were rather expecting him to grant them protection: to ban all imported footwear especially from China. That didn’t happen either.
Now, things have changed. Semir Nuru and his friend were looking for a pair of shoes – made in Ethiopia – at one of the shoe stores around Megenagna area when EBR approached them. They said that some of locally produced shoes are durable, comfortable and economical compared to the prices of shoes imported from Asian countries such as China or Taiwan. “Locally manufactured shoes can even compete with those imported from the West, including footwear from Italy,” Semir said, with perceptible pride and self confidence.
Several high class shops at the ground floor of new buildings display entirely locally manufactured shoes on their shelves. Some even have only carry a single brand of local shoes. Almost all of the shoe manufacturing companies have a series of stores in different parts of the city and some have gone regional.
“Demand is very high and business is excellent for these shoes,” said one shopkeeper who works in one of these stores around Hayahulet, on Major Haile Gebresillasie Avenue, and prefered to stay anonymous.
The Ethiopian leather and leather product industries have demonstrated notable advancement in the quality of their products in the past few years. It is evident that Ethiopian footwear and other leather products are able to compete with products from all over the world and penetrate the market including the markets of the United States and Europe.
There are about 19 footwear producing companies in the country. Several new footwear companies have been established in the past few years. Huajian International Shoe City plc, New wing – Addis Shoe factory plc and ARA Shoes AG, to name a few, were established in the past couple of years. These new companies export 100Pct of their products to the United States and Europe. Other shoe factories such as Dire Industries plc, Ras Dashen Shoe plc and Wallia Leather and Leather Products also supply their shoes mainly to the export market.
Five years ago the total foreign currency earned from the sector was not more than USD 60-70 million; the foreign currency earned by exporting leather and leather products now has almost doubled. The export of locally produced shoes which has not been more than USD eight million then has reached about USD20 million now.
The share of the local market has also grown significantly. Several shoe manufacturing companies which have been established a little earlier are also producing high quality shoes and putting their products on the local market. Footwear companies with brand names such as Anbesa, Tikur Abay, Kangaroo, Peacock, Ramsey, Sheba, OK Jamaica and others mainly target Ethiopian customers and some of them also export a considerable amount of their products.
Because of the technology and efficient production techniques employed by manufacturing industries as well as the improvement of input supply like finished leather from tanneries, the quality of locally produced leather products have significantly improved, Abdisa Adugna, secretary general of the Ethiopian Leather Industries Association (ELIA) told EBR.
The government has also set up an institute, Ethiopian Leather Industries Development Institute (ELIDI) to support the sector. The institute has been giving short term and medium range trainings to support those in the sector so that they will have scientific skills the industry requires.
“This has brought an enormous transformation on the efficiency of leather and leather product manufacturers,” Abdisa exclaimed. “With the improvement in quality, the demand of these products has grown a great deal and producers are getting a huge local market,” he added.
Anbesa Shoe S.C., established 75 years ago, has been producing and marketing shoes for people of all ages through the years. Its growth however hasn’t matched its age and experience until recently. However, in the past few years its products have become very sought after. The company has been partially privatized and will be completely privatized after two years, and already has made dramatic improvements. It has brought in modern shoe producing equipment, machines and shoe production professionals from Italy and has been modernized starting from modeling and the whole production process to the final marketing of products.
Following this improvements, the local demand for its products in the past couple of years has shown a 40pct increase annually according to Melaku Tilahun, general manager of the company. The company’s shoes which are priced from ETB260-1700 are competitive, and “even more preferred” to similar imported products. “One of our pairs of adult shoes, which [I think] part of the middle income segments of the society prefer costs ETB 700, while a similar quality product imported couldn’t be bought with less than ETB 2,000” the general manager claimed. It has opened 32 stores all over the country.
It is not only Anbesa Shoe S.C. but most shoe manufacturing companies have made similar improvements according to data from ELIA. With this improvement several people like Semir and his friend prefer these locally produced pair of shoes.
After selecting their favorites models and checking their size, Semir and his friend each bought one from different shops that are opened side by side at the ground floor of Bethlehem Plaza around Megenagna. The shops provide their customers local brand shoes with comparable quality products and similar prices. The two friends paid ETB 460 and 480 for each of the pair of shoes they decided on.
“Besides their comfort and durability they are affordable to people like me who earn a civil servant’s meager income,” said Semir’s friend who prefered to stay anonymous because he feared someone would steal his beautiful pair of shoes, he mocked. “But seriously, people should buy their own products and reap the durability, comfort and economic benefits and be proud of buying locally,” he added. EBR
2nd Year • January 2014 • No 11