Revived some three years ago, the Kumasi Shoe Factory has had a mixture of good and bad luck during its operations.
Although the company was revived with the promise by the government to be the sole manufacturer of all the shoes for the Ghana Armed Forces and other security agencies in the country, this promise is yet to be fulfilled.
The company, with the capacity to produce over 700, 000 shoes and sandals annually and ability to employ more than 2,500 people, is still a pale shadow of its prospects.
However, the story is not all that gloomy as the managers of the facility see some light at the end of the tunnel.
A month ago, the factory was awarded a contract by the Customs division of the Ghana Revenue Authority to produce 500 pairs used for the Independence Day March Past.
When the Daily Graphic visited the facility, workers were busy putting finishing touches to the shoes for delivery.
According to the chairman of the board of directors of the company, Dr Karl Ayikai Laryea, the Customs Division had to fall on them at the last minute when the company they had earlier contracted disappointed them.
“Even though we are not making anything from this contract, we accepted to do it just for them to know that we are capable of doing good and quality works.”
Aside from the contract, he said the Ghana Armed Forces was the only security agency that had kept faith with the company by religiously ordering its shoes from the factory.
The factory also manufactured the 10,000 free sandals distributed by the government to pupils throughout the country.
Dr Laryea said the government appears paying lipservice to local companies and noted that with just a single policy, the company could create direct jobs for more than 3000 people and 500 to other ancillary service providers.
He said although the government promised to ensure that the security agencies bought their boots from the company, the factory was yet to receive any such orders from those security agencies. “They continue to buy them from China and India when we can produce the same thing at a better quality.”
According to him, the government was not helping the company to survive and the opposition was also not providing any alternative. “They will rather sit on radio and engage in banters about the number of people working at the factory when they should be thinking about policies that would help sustain the company.”
“Just a single policy compelling all students to wear Made-in-Ghana sandals will create lots of jobs for Ghanaians at this factory,” he said.
That notwithstanding, he said there were lots of prospects for the factory to grow and employ more people to expand.
He said with the right policies, local companies could compete with most of the foreign companies that export to the country.
He said there should be a deliberate policy by the government to support the local industry by ensuring that at least government agencies buy from the local manufacturers.
Dr Laryea said: “That is how the developed countries became what they are today. They supported their local industries and did not open their doors to all sorts of products to flood their markets. This is what we ought to be doing. We don’t need to ban any products from coming but if we have a policy that compels government agencies to buy from local manufacturers, there will be less unemployment in the country and more people will be paying taxes and growing the economy.”
The shoe factory was the footwear division of the erstwhile Ghana Industrial Holding Corporation (GIHOC), established by the first President of the country, Osagyefo Dr Kwame Nkrumah in 1960. It was to produce boots for personnel of the public security services and the general public.
Following the overthrow of Dr Nkrumah, the company collapsed and was revived in November 2012 through collaboration between a private investor, Czech-based company, Knights, and the Defence Industries Holding Company (DIHOC) of the Ministry of Defence.
It currently has a workforce of about 200 staff made up of permanent, casual workers, interns and national service personnel.