The past week my girl friend and I visited a number of footwear factories, tanneries, footwear designers and bespoke workshops in the Western Cape South Africa. Ironically this was thanks to the names and addresses provided by SACAWU union organiser Etienne Vlok.
At a first take the situation is gloomy. China's entry into the WTO has delivered a severe blow to many companies, and those that have survived have all cut their local production drastically. They tend to focus on leather shoes which they claim the Chinese can't do. It seems the consensus among local manufacturers.
Those that are surviving seem to be doing very well supplying the local market at the moment. Very little is exported however, which will be disappointing to strategists in the SA government. Trade liberilisation was supposed to lead to a boom in South African exports.
Another thing is clear. South Africa has no shoe designing skills to speak of. The handmade shoe makers that supply the few independent shops in Kloofstreet all expressed the need for training, while the designs we saw at the factories were downright ugly.
Good news is that the SA government has identified shoe making as one of the key industries which they would like to support, so young entrepreneurs, with a sound business plan and a comfort with risk should feel free to apply for some money. Sphere: Related Content