By Wezi Tjaronda
Namibia’s first shoe factory opened in Okahandja last week. The factory, currently employing 15 people that will manufacture some 60 military boots a day, is a joint undertaking by the August 26 Holdings Company and its two Czech Republic partners Prabos Plus a.s and Svit Machinery s.r.o.
The factory brings Namibia a step closer to substituting the import of military boots – the first products that the company is producing.
Minister of Defence Major General Charles Namoloh said at the opening of the August 26 Industries Shoe Factory on Wednesday that shoe production locally shifted the ratio of imported/domestic commodities in the right direction as it stemmed outflow of money from Namibia.
“The opening of this factory cannot therefore have come at a better time. It comes at a time when investments especially in the manufacturing sector are mostly needed to stimulate economic growth and development,” he said.
Namoloh added that this brings Namibia closer to Vision 2030. Apart from creating employment, contributing to economic growth and industrial development, the factory, said Namoloh, would help lessen Namibia’s dependence on foreign markets.
It will also teach Namibians production and management skills which have the potential of improving efficiency and increasing production, he said.
“The Government will benefit from tax revenue, while the value added on agriculture products such as leather will help small farmers to generate an income,” he said.
Deputy Minister of Mines and Energy Bernhardt Esau said at the launch that the company is a step for Namibia to add value to its local resources, create employment and substitute the import of shoes from outside Namibia.
Esau said Namibians should be empowered to assume strategically important functions within Namibia and outside because the country cannot afford to shut its borders to foreign competition.
“The best we can do is to insulate the Namibian economy against the adverse effects of fierce global competition by preparing local companies to become strong regional and global players,” Esau said, adding that this can be done through transfer of skills and technology and management know-how to create a vibrant class of Namibian entrepreneurs.
Plans to establish the shoe factory started some years back after a team of Czech experts completed a survey for the establishment of a shoe factory and investments in the glass industry.
In 2006, Cabinet approved the provision of N$5,3 million for construction and as start-up capital for the factory, geared towards the manufacturing of military boots for the ministry as well as shoes for police and prison personnel.
The factory star-ted training as well as production in October 2007. The shoe factory is expected to diversify its manufacturing of military boots into shoes for construction workers, miners, nurses and schoolchildren as well as handbags, wallets and belts at a later stage.
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