Dr Akolang Tombale
Beefing up Trade
SADC initiatives have boosted trade between Member States and with
the rest of the world, a trend set to continue with the renewed focus on
“First we provided for ourselves, now
we export to places like the European
In Africa, the size of your herd relates directly to your financial and social value. Keeping cattle for
meat and leather production has long contributed to the formal and informal industries in most
SADC countries. Realising this strength, the SADC Industrialisation Strategy proposes to grow the
region’s herd and thus wealth of all people. Growing the herd involves facilitated connection
between cattle, meat and leather traders across SADC borders and a joint export strategy.
Botswana, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe already benefit from the global demand for leather
goods such as shoes, bags and leather seats for luxury vehicles. Growing this success is one of
Since the SADC Trade Protocol was signed in 1996, liberalisation of imports and exports among
the 15 Member States has multiplied mutually beneficial trade flows within the SADC region and
At the same time, Member States strive for policies that provide incentives to invest in the region.
Through its Industrialisation Strategy, an ambitious masterplan for the region’s industrial
development over the next five decades, SADC is seeking to continue the success of the Trade
Protocol and other trade initiatives.
One of those is a direct action that benefits traders in live cattle. In 2012, farmers pointed out that
Botswana only issued livestock import and transit permits in Gaborone, 1 000km away from the
border posts that link its slaughter houses with neighbouring cattlefarming nations. With the support
of SADC, Botswana decided to issue the permits in other places across the country as well.
The effects were felt immediately by thousands of livestock traders in Zambia and Zimbabwe. In
the long run, this change is contributing to the growth and development of the regional leather
Easier regional trade allows local companies to access the best inputs available instead of having to
procure everything at home – be it cattle feed, calves or treated leather. Regional collaboration is all
about realising and combining each country’s individual strength and moving as a stronger region.
The positive impact of these initiatives has been immediate for traders. The Botswana Meat
Commission (BMC), for instance, has made plans to expand both local and international
relationships, says CEO Dr Akolang Tombale.
“The BMC is one of the three main meat businesses in Africa that export to Europe. We are the
largest, followed by the meat corporations of Namibia and Swaziland. In 2013, for example, we
sent 6,000 tons (of meat) to Europe and in 2016 it was 10,000 tons of beef and leather. That
constitutes around 53% of our revenue,” says Tombale.
The BMC is also the biggest producer of leather in the region, accounting for 75% of the highest
grade leather. Its workforce has grown from a few dozen twenty years ago to well over 500 today.
“We have a growing trade in raw leather to South Africa where they’re using it in the car industry,
clothing and other consumables,” he says.
One beneficiary is Handel Street Upholsterers in Johannesburg, South Africa. Handel produces high
quality car interiors for customers throughout the region.
Marketing Director Ashraf Ismail says the industry is
growing exponentially: “Rising consumer preference
for retrofitting of vehicles with leather upholstery is
further supporting growth of the market through the
While quality Botswana leather is used, buyers of
these products can be further afield. “Nigeria is
expected to be the largest consumer of leather for
automotive interiors on the continent, burgeoning
growth of the global automotive interior leather
market,” Ismail says.
And the leather industry already benefits from stronger
regional integration on a practical level: The BMC
shares a marketing company with neighbours in
Namibia, which has helped grow sales for both
countries outside Africa.
This is good news for those in the industry. In
Gaborone, feedlot owner Werner Faber says local
skills are being used to produce and manufacture a
range of feed sorts for local herds.
“Through the support of the industry, we have a few hundred staff now. There are a lot of positives and things
look great for the future,” says Faber. The employment created by businesses linked to beef and
leather is vital to the economy of Botswana.
Back at the meat processing plant, there’s a man who believes implicitly in the Botswana meat
industry. Arekipo Modise started out as a security guard at the BMC plant in 2002 and is now its
public relations officer.
“We can immediately see from the meat how valuable it is and it is then stamped appropriately.
First we provided for ourselves, now we export to places like the European Union,” he says,
proudly pointing at the EU certified stamps on the sides of beef inside the processing plant.
It’s a relationship that has been further deepened by the SADC-EU Economic Partnership
Agreement, signed in June 2016 between the EU and Botswana, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia,
South Africa and Swaziland. The agreement keeps all those exports to the EU duty free and
supports the participating SADC countries in meeting the EU standards required to obtain the
For SADC citizens like Modise, these regional initiatives – combined with entrepreneurial
productivity – have had real impact on their lives.
Feedlot owner Werner Faber
Arekipo Modise: Public Relations Officer,
Botswana Meat Commission
SADC Strategy: The SADC Industrialisation Strategy and Roadmap 2015- 2063 recognises the necessity for the structural transformation of the SADC region through industrialisation, modernisation, upgrading, skills development, science and technology, financial strengthening and deeper regional integration. It promotes a strategic shift from reliance on resources and low-cost labour to increased investment and enhanced productivity of both labour and capital.