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Mpopoma factory creates 400 jobs

by Staff reporter
21 Jun 2022 at 06:39hrs | Views
WHILE several established Bulawayo companies struggle to keep afloat citing numerous challenges, a small-to-medium scale furniture enterprise in Mpopoma is basking in solid growth and is now focused on further expansion with attention on exports.

With a growing demand for its diverse furniture products, the Mpopoma Outspan Association has perfected its operations to a level where both big and small buyers from different parts of the country flock into the unassuming factory to place their orders.

This has enabled the young company to recruit close to 400 workers, says management, and there is capacity to employ more if they were not being curtailed by limited working space and capitalisation constraints.

Situated along Nketa Drive adjacent to Mpopoma Park, the company currently produces 400 high quality lounge suites per month, 300 wardrobes and 250 kitchen units, among others.

However, due to limited working space, production capacity is reduced said Mpopoma Outspan Association chairman, Mr Khozanayi Mlambo in an interview at the factory.

He said the thriving association was established 15 years ago by members who pooled their resources together with some bringing in their small machinery to push production.

The model worked wonders as they successfully created workable capacity and today, they are a formidable player in the furniture industry.

Mr Mlambo said they need adequate working space and are keep to gain access to available funding to further catapult the business to greater heights.

This will not only stimulate increased production, but also expand job opportunity for locals, added Mr Mlambo.

"There are close to 400 people who are working at Mpopoma Outspan, which is a Bulawayo City Council facility.

We produce sofas, wardrobe, kitchen units, tables and wooden doors as per customer specifications," he told The Chronicle.

"Per week we have capacity to produce about 400 high quality sets of sofas but we are limited by storage facilities that are a hindrance.

"Most of the pioneer members are also imparting their skills to the youth as part of empowerment.

We appeal to the local authority to expand the facility."

Mr Mlambo said they source the bulk of raw materials such as leather rite, fabric and other consumables from South Africa at relatively lower costs than locally.

He said the ideal situation, which they were working on, will be for them to set up shop in the city centre to directly sell their range of products to the market.

"By having our own retail outlets that would create working space at the factory and allow us to increase production and employ more people," he said.

"With limited space we cannot produce more products.

Our place is also a challenge when it's raining.

"We wait for walk-in customers to clear available products.

But our client base is expanding and we have seen some retail outlets coming to buy here."

During the visit to the factory the news crew observed trucks loading various purchased products and going inside the premises were stock piled finished goods ready for collection.

Mr Mlambo said this was concerning as the business was seeking to enhance the standards of the premises and they desire to have proper concrete floors and adequate roof sheds.

Over the past decade, Bulawayo has witnessed the emergence and the growth of the informal sector spurred by the closure and relocation of big companies.

This has resulted in mushrooming of SMEs set up by skilled personnel who lost their jobs in various sectors of the economy ranging from furniture, leather sector, farming to information and technology.

Challenges to do with securing funding, regulation, payment of taxes and stunted growth are common among most SMEs.

There has also been a major challenge of lack of modern skill upgrade in the SMEs sector with sector leaders saying they find it difficult to sell their products either due to poor packaging or marketing skills.

Over and above this, Mr Mlambo said most of their members have no access to various loans meant for SMEs and indicated that others actually lack financial literacy and need capacitation.

"We have heard of SMEs loan facilities but we have no idea how to access the loans," he said.

"Our members need to be equipped with knowledge of applying for loans and also training on the export market.

We are ready to export.

"We need working capital to buy various heavy-duty equipment that can withstand high production.

Currently, we are using old machinery, but still able to produce good quality products.

"With working capital, our members can procure heavy duty cross cutting planes such as handheld thickness planes."

Contacted for comment, Bulawayo Chamber of SMEs programmes coordinator, Mr Nketa Mangoye-Dhlamini said they were aware of the working space challenges facing SMEs.

"As an association, we have discussed the issue of space limitation faced by most SMEs in the city.

"We then agreed that the ideal situation would be to have a central storage space to stock finished products," he said.

"We will have to approach the city council and a pension fund that has facilities to assist our members.

That is still in progress."

Source - The Chroncile
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