- Title: Ethiopian leather shoes make strides in quality, design and the economy
- Date: 15th August 2019
- Summary: ADDIS ABABA, ETHIOPIA (FILE) (REUTERS) LEATHER ON DISPLAY AT A TRADE FAIR HAND TOUCHING LEATHER PEOPLE BROWSING
- Embargoed: 29th August 2019 14:16
- Keywords: shoes factory workshop exports market
- Location: ADDIS ABABA, ETHIOPIA
- City: ADDIS ABABA, ETHIOPIA
- Country: Ethiopia
- Topics: Economic Events
- Reuters ID: LVA002ASBWKT3
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text: Sneakers, loafers and low-heeled pumps - the footwear on the streets of the Ethiopian capital is more practical than funky or glamorous.
But with a thriving leather industry and cheap labour, Ethiopian shoes have stepped into the international market over the past decade with exotic designs and high quality - and that's starting to seep back into the local market.
Companies like Pittards, a British leather company has a tannery and workshop in Ethiopia employ scores of local people have helped improve quality standards. Workshops like Enzi Footwear with a group of seven craftsmen and women make high- end shoes from locally sourced materials for a select export market, attracting a loyal following.
"We can be the new Germany, we can be the next Italy, we can be the next anybody who's producing things at a very high standard. And that's what we are, that's the narrative that's the story we are trying to show with our products. It all done by Ethiopians but to the highest international standards," says Azariah Mengistu, co-founer of Enzi Footwear.
A pair of brightly-coloured Enzi shoes can cost up to 250 USD and production is set to climb to around 1200 pair of shoes by the end of 2019.
"When you believe in people and when you invest in people and take the time to train and develop relationships and pay people well and incentivise your employees, it is very possible," he adds.
Recent data is scarce on Ethiopian shoe factory worker wages. But according to industry experts, a worker earned between 60-160USD per month in 2016.
Shoe salesmen in Addis Ababa say they've seen a change in what they sell and what people buy. Cheap Chinese shoes are becoming a thing of the past and if people have money, they buy locally-made footwear.
"Previously society did not have a good perception of locally produced shoes. Now these days it is getting better and better primarily because imported shoes are very expensive and we have better supply, " says Abdi Bereded, who works in a local shoe shop.
Traditionally, most Ethiopian footwear exports were to Europe. But as the world's shoe companies discovered the business potential of the east African country, exports jumped from around 7 million USD in 2007 to 38 million USD in 2017. The United States has since become the biggest market, buying up more than 2 million pairs of shoes per year. Now the Chinese are eyeing the industry and getting ready to build factories to supply Chinese markets as well as the international markets China wants to supply with shoes.
(Production: Kumerra Gemechu, Masako Iijima)
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