Sun Oct 01 11:00:00 EAT 2017
Inside a local shoe factory in Tegeta
With the growth of online business globally, I could not tell if the received images of male shoes via my mobile phone three weeks ago were made in Tanzania due to its quality and designs. The shoes are made of pure leather. Different colours and the designs are official shoes, military boots, casual shoes and even school shoes. On asking how much the shoes were a friend referred me to Dedan Munisi,38, Managing Director of Wa Asili Asilia producing African products made from pure leather and beards such as school shoes, official shoes as well as casual shoes. The factory which is located in Tegeta at Magofuni grounds also makes batik shirts and dresses, scarves, school and laptop bags and belts just to mention a few. Munisi who is famously known as ‘Ras Mizizi ’ says his factory also makes furniture using the remains of dhow, which can no longer be used in the ocean depending on the customer’s needs. Sharing his struggles from a humble beginning of unemployment, he says he now owns a local factory that has employed 68 people from the initial four when he started. He says, soon after completing his Form IV studies in 2001, he started a small business of selling vegetables from the little pocket money he saved of Sh300,000 and could paint as well. His painting talent made it easy for him to do better in his course as he had an idea in paintings and designing. “After a long period of job search with no success, I realised my painting talent was the only way to generate more income if I could add some more expertise to it. Since I only earned income through paintings and art work, I decided to go Nyumba ya Sanaa in 2005 for a three months course on batik printing and designing,” he says. Munisi and his three friends shared a small office in Mwenge, outskirts of Dar es Salaam Central Business District. During that time majority of Tanzanian’s would only wear rosaries and tasbih. The introduction of culture accessories especially bracelets were well received and most of the University of Dar es Salaam students became his good customers. He says, he is among the very first founders of the thread accessories in Mwenge as most of the people who do it today learned from him and his friends. “However, after making some profit in Mwenge we decided to share our profits equally and my friends shifted their focus to another business but I stuck with this one,” he says. In just a year after my batik course with a very good profit prospects, the introduction of Madera and male designs started flowing in the country and badly killed the batik market in the country. And during that time majority of women and unemployed youths involved themselves in selling and producing batik,” says Munisi. He further says in the same year, Urafiki Factory stopped producing raw materials that were meant for batik making. It was never easy to cope up with the falling of batik market as the cost of production doubled due to the fact that they had to buy raw materials from China at a double price compared to how they used to buy from Urafiki Factory. “As a way of coping with the market fall of batik, our main focus shifted to making products from leather. We started with hand bags, belts, key holders, sandals etc,” he says. “Soon as I expanded my business into leather products and realised there was market opportunity by receiving orders as well selling at wholesale. Producing more for the customers led to looking at a bigger place that also contains a workshop in Tegeta. He spent all of his savings to build the workshop and train two other people to support him,” he says. “I had to start going to local festivals to showcase my work as a way of looking for market. And the first festival to attend was the Bagamoyo Festival of Arts and Culture in 2007. In a period of five years I managed to employ 15 people and trained them,” he says. In 2010, I participated in Wezesha Safari Lager competition. The competition meant to recognize self employed youths with facility challenges and I won a modern industrial machine costs up to Sh2,500,000. He says, such a competition was a very positive way of the company to give back to the community as the machine given to him ten years ago still operates. Sadly, the competition only ended up in its second edition. “In 2015, I had to move from my previous workshop to be here. I had managed to build a six-roomed workshop and a house for my family. This has helped me a lot as I am living in this compound and there are times I can work 24 hours when we have plenty of orders,,” he says. Commenting on the challenges he says, getting a bigger place to build a modern workshop is not easy as it needs a lot of money. He thanks his friend who volunteered to give him a space at Magofuni grounds free of charge for two years. Currently two years are about to end and I am looking forward to see how we will manage to pay him his rent little by little. He says, another challenging part is when you train people and once they manage they just quit and start business of the same and start fighting for the market. “It is not easy to avoid this as I keep on training them and I will continue to work with those who will be loyal.” He calls upon the government to walk the talk on giving priority to industries as President John Magufuli promised. “There is a lot of impact that can be brought up by people with small scale industries. If the government could separate politics and development, Tanzania has a brighter future ahead in industries,” says Munisi. He says, Small Industries Development Organization (SIDO) should walk out of its office and reach out people with small factories and full of potential to support them with right information on how to expand and manage the increase of the products prices to push the country’s agenda on industries. Developed countries purchase leather from Tanzania and manufacture in their own countries when the final products get here very few people can afford it. “Tanzania is the second country in the Africa continent with so many animals, this means we have enough leather here but majority of leather is exported to the international market,” he says.