US based footwear producer, Brown Shoe Company, will establish an office in Ethiopia to buy domestic footwear products for its international market.
Recently large shoe makers have seen Ethiopia’s potential and invested in the country and there are some international garment companies like H&M but this is the first time a global shoe company has entered the Ethiopian market.
Wendu Legesse, Director General of the Leather Industry Development Institute (LIDI), told Capital that the company is expected to open its office in the coming fiscal year which starts next week.
Wendu said Brown Shoe mainly exports to China but now is encouraging Chinese firms to produce footwear in Ethiopia.
Leather industry experts are hopeful this will bring more leather technology and experience into Ethiopia.
“This is a good example of how international producers can contribute to Ethiopia,” Wendu added.
According to LIDI’s head, the Brown Shoe’s investment will not only increase production but will also bring international knowledge and standards.
He said that the company will not only open an office here, but will also provide laboratory service and capacity building.
“Brown Shoe has provided scholarships for seven experts who worked at LIDI and four of them are already taking the training,” the director general said. LIDI is the government institution responsible for overseeing the leather industry. It also has a training center that provides higher education in leather technology.
The government’s goal is to bring in half a billion dollars from leather exports by the end of the Growth and Transformation Plan (GTP). Currently that target is not on track to be met because experts explain that the number of companies expected to invest in Ethiopian leather has been less than expected.
Even though the GTP ends in a year government officials are hoping that as more large companies enter the market they will still be able to meet the leather earnings target. The government is not only encouraging footwear producers to invest in the country, but companies who have the potential to export the products.
For example international footwear companies like Huajian Shoe Company, and Gorge Shoe Corporation are coming to Ethiopia and joining the sector and they have the potential to produce a large amount of leather products.
According to Wendu, another global footwear producer, Stella, which makes 52 million pairs of shoes every year has demonstrated an interest in investing in Ethiopia.
“Stella paid two visits to the country and is interested in investing here. We are also encouraging synthetic leather shoe producers, who produce sneakers and sports footwear, to invest in the country,” he added.
Brown Shoe Company, based in Missouri, is a USD 2.6 billion footwear company with worldwide operations. It owns the 1,100-store Famous Footwear chain, 100 specialty retail stores in the United States, Canada and China under the Naturalizer name, as well as Shoes.com, the Company’s e-commerce subsidiary. Brown Shoe’s wholesale divisions own and market leading footwear brands including Naturalizer, LifeStride, Via Spiga and Sam Edelman. The company also markets licensed brands including Franco Sarto, Etienne Aigner, Dr. Scholl’s, Carlos by Carlos Santana, Fergie Footwear and Vince branded footwear.