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Snags hit budding local orthopaedic footwear industry

THIRD year students of the Dar es Salaam Institute of Technology (DIT), Mwanza campus have started making orthopedic shoes but are let down by outdated technology and lack modern tools and raw materials.

The students are beneficiaries of a training programme run in collaboration with Ethiopia’s Federal Technical and Vocational Education and Training Institute (FTVETI).

They say they hope to turn the DIT a centre of orthopedic footwear but they need modern working tools such as Computer Aided Design (CAD) and Computer Aided Manufacturer (CAM) and some special raw materials for the footwear specifically designed to support the mechanics and structure of the foot, ankle and leg with a number of medically beneficial features and functions.

“We have started making orthopedic shoes, but the process consumes much time due to the outdated technology, wherein a client must first set the foot on land to let us have the map, specialty known as ‘shoe-last’, which tells us the kind of shoe to be manufactured,” one of the students, Jackson Peter told the ‘Daily News’ in an interview.

The CAD through its foot-scanner software simplifies the process since it gives all those details in a short period,” he said. They were able to produce at-least 10 pairs of orthopedic footwear daily for patients with plantar fasciitis disability, where a person experiences leg pains as a result of disorders on his or her foot, he said.

The team is also able to produce orthopedic shoes for those in leprosy type of disorders, at-least three pairs a day, he said.

“The other challenge we face is scarcity of some raw materials for orthopedic footwear manufacturing because most people with disorders need cushioned shoes to support their-up and down type of movements. The cushion materials are also for balancing to those who lack some parts on their feet. The most wanted materials therefore, are those we call Ethylene Vinyl Acetate (EVA),” he said.

He said the tools would help in among others, collecting details on the kind of the needed shoe, given the fact that orthopedic footwear depends on the type and seriousness of the person’s disorder/ disability. Some Ethiopian lecturers from (FTVETI) are in Tanzania to help in rolling out orthopedic footwear making training at the campus.

They are taking part in an exchange programme under a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between FTVETI and DIT signed last year. The MoU provides for staff and students exchange between the two institutions as well as development of leather products incubator and development of small and medium businesses in the leather sector in Ethiopia and Tanzania.

It is part of the implementation of a 75 million US dollars East Africa Skill for Transformation and Regional Integration (EASTRIP) project aimed at increasing the access and improving the quality of Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) programmes and to support regional integration and regional economic corridors.

EASTRIP project initially involves three East African countries along the Northern Transport Corridor including Ethiopia, Kenya, and Tanzania. FTVETI Assistant lecturer, Girum Mesfin said that orthopedic leather shoe manufacturing is also an important segment in strengthening the leather industry.

He hailed the DIT students for their flexibility in adopting new technologies saying that would bring about significant changes in the leather industry. “We also praise the Tanzanian government for efforts towards improving the leather industry, one of the sectors that promote both official and self-employment to youth, while at the same time contributing in national economic growth,” he said.

He further said the Tanzanian government should think of introducing a leather-related curriculum for secondary schools to make sure every student gets initial leatherrelated knowledge before joining higher learning institutions.

“This will help to increase experts in the industry since some students will be opting to continue with leather studies in their tertiary level. Again, the government should also introduce as many leather processing industries as possible given the fact that Tanzania is rich in raw materials,” he said.

Another FTVETI lecturer, Ms Liya Shawel, said Tanzania had a lot of raw material source apart from livestock. She said unlike Ethiopia, which depends only on cattle, Tanzania has various sources of raw materials, including wildlife and water bodies that provide abundance of fishskins.

He said that Tanzania is also ahead of Ethiopia in sheep keeping, which is another source of the raw materials for leather businesses.

“Animals like buffalos can provide the country not only quantity but also quality hides with extra wideness, compared to those of cattle. Tanzania is rich in wild animals which can play a big role in sustaining the leather processing industry through provision of enough and varieties of raw materials,” she said.

DIT Mwanza Campus Director, Dr Albert Mmari said students’ programme exchange was an important part of the EASTRIP project, set to end in 2024. “We are now on staff exchange, the reason behind the presence of these FTVETI personnel here. According to the MoU schedule, our students would go to Ethiopia next month,” said Dr Mmari.

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