Dumisani Nsingo, Senior Business Reporter
ONE of the world’s largest shoe manufacturers, Chinese firm, Huajian Group of Companies has set sight on investing about $10 billion towards setting up a leather products and beef processing plant in Bulawayo, a Cabinet Minister has revealed.
In an interview with Sunday News Business, after an investment forum in Bulawayo last Wednesday, Industry and Commerce Minister Nqobizitha Mangaliso Ndlovu said officials from Huajian Group of Companies led by their president, Mr Zhang Huarong visited the country two months ago and toured Bulawayo for three days on a feasibility study as part of their efforts to explore investment opportunities in the city.
“Their initial investment plan was around setting up a leather centre where they would be manufacturing shoes for export but they also seem to be keen to expand their business line to include beef processing. They want even a bigger area where they will set up a proper ‘industrial hub’ which they will finance in terms of putting the basic infrastructure. We are scheduled to meet them before or during ZITF (Zimbabwe International Trade Fair),” said Minister Ndlovu.
Huajian is one of the biggest investors in Ethiopia’s manufacturing sector, and is helping the Eastern African country transform into a global hub for the shoe industry by 2025.
“The total quantum of investment in terms of their indications is in the region of $10 billion. He (Zhang Huarong) is the one that runs an industrial hub in Ethiopia, one doing exports for shoes there and says there is still international demand and they can take up a bigger plant here than the one in Ethiopia, they are quite keen to come,” said Minister Ndlovu.
The interest by the Chinese firm to set up a beef to leather value addition plant in Bulawayo comes at a time when the city has been designated as a beef and leather value chain and textiles and clothing Special Economic Zone.
Recently the Government raised concerns over the slow uptake of Bulawayo’s SEZs designated areas amid revelations that the Zimbabwe Special Economic Zones Authority has approved applications from only three investors. Bulawayo is part of the six zones designated by the Government as SEZ, the others being Beitbridge, Harare-Sunway City, Victoria Falls and Mutare-Fernhill.
Last year, Huajian hinted that as part of its long-term business strategy it intended to invest more into Africa where it hopes to create at least 100 000 job opportunities. The factory management also said it expects to train 2 000 African citizens in China in the art and technology of making quality shoes – comparable anywhere around the globe. The company produces more than 20 million pairs of shoes in two factories, and sells the bulk of its shoes to the United States and Europe where it also has clients who give orders to a specific brand for celebrities.