… Two ministers from fact-finding mission in India
Following their visit to India this week on a benchmarking mission on the leather industry, Assistant Minister for Presidential Affairs and Public Administration Philip Makgalemele believes the leather industry could be a success here.
Makgalemele went to India accompanied by the Assistant Minister of Trade and Industry, Sadique Kebonang with the view of appreciating the operations, set up and value addition of Leather Park and Rapid Incubators in India.
Makgalemele said on Friday that they visited two projects in Chennai, India - the first one being a leather processing plant where they got to learn about the about how leather is processed and its benefit to the economy as well as its value chain.
Their visit follows that of the leather experts from the Central Leather Research Institute (CLRI)-an Indian research institute who were in Botswana in December to conduct the technical and financial feasibility of the proposed leather park.
With an estimated population of 2.5 million of cattle in addition to the 1.8 million of goat, Botswana is said to possess a huge potential for the leather industry.
“The conclusion we got from visiting the leather park in India is that, there is a potential leather industry in Botswana with the plenty of hides and skins that are always available,” said Makgalemele.
While in India the duo (two assistant ministers) - who were accompanied by delegates from Lobatse, the town at which the proposed leather park is to be constructed - visited the Rapid Incubators. This is because the government has since initiated the establishment of the Rapid Incubator in Gaborone.
“The second project we visited is Rapid Incubator, this where people are taught various skills for businesses which are not limited to the industry alone, it includes other skills such as for bakeries,” he said, adding that the Rapid Incubator would be good initiative in Botswana particularly for the youth.
Makgalemele revealed that the government has since availed P20 million to the Local Enterprising Authority (LEA) to set up the Rapid Incubator while additional funding will be secured from other sources.
The idea for setting up a leather park in Botswana was conceptualised by LEA in 2010 after studies showed that raw hides and skins are available in abundance in the country while at the same time the country’s import bill for leather and its products was exceeding that of the export. Currently the country imports close to P150 million worth of leather while exporting P60 million worth of leather.
The park, which is expected to play a bigger role in the diversification of the economy once complete, is projected to employ between 5 000 and 10 000 people across the leather value chain.
Approximately P225 million will be used to construct the leather park and has been included in the NDP 10 while construction is expected to commence during the 2015/16 financial year. The government is set to start the project and later divest and hand over to the private sector.
During the workshop organised by LEA late last year, an expert from CRLI advised that the success of the leather park is necessitated by various inputs, including discouraging the export of raw materials by imposing higher tariffs and also imposing duty free import of raw materials.