Forty stakeholders from Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania representing both the public and private sectors including tanneries, shoe and leather goods manufactures, regulatory bodies and financial institutions met to define implementation support areas for value addition in the leather sector. The stakeholders reviewed work plans for 2015 and 2016, already agreed to in Surajkund in March 2015, in light to two rapid assessment missions carried out in August and September 2015.The two day workshop held on November 4 -5, 2015 was inaugurated, on behalf of the Secretary General of COMESA, Mr. S. Ngwenya, by Prof. M. Mwinyikione Mwinyihija, executive director COMESA Leather and Leather Products Institute (LLPI).
Commenting on the recent Tripartite Trade Agreement, Prof Mwinyihija noted: ‘It is also imperative to note that a recently signed Tripartite Trade Agreement, between COMESA, EAC and SADC is set to form a formidable trading block in Africa. With 26 countries or 48 per cent of the membership of the African Union (AU), 51 per cent of its Gross Domestic Product (USD624bn) and 56 per cent of its population (572 million people), it is thus an important economic powerhouse of the African Continent.’
In Africa, the leather sector holds enormous potential to transform the development landscape, he remarked. While the global leather value chain is estimated at USD100bn (considered an underestimate as it excludes leather blended products as well as by-products including fertilisers), with approximately 21 per cent of the global livestock population, Africa emerges as a strong player on the supply side of the leather sector. Additionally in terms of demand, Africa’s footwear consumption is estimated in the range of 878 million to 1.1 billion pairs per annum based on a footwear per capita of (0.85 to 1.1) pairs.
And, as per the World Bank Global Performance, India is today at the third position in terms of trade, technology and production in the leather sector.
At the workshop, stakeholders exchanged ideas on tanning, re-tanning, finishing and implications to environment. A presentation on market trends was also jointly delivered by Simone Cipriani SITA’s leather task team leader and New York-based fashion designer, Mimi Plange.
‘When we talk fashion we talk leather,’ Mr. Cipriani said, adding that the small designer segment, which is rich in design quality and detail, creates value for the kind of leather available in Africa. ‘With the right positioning and also addressing issues of traceability for example this market is viable,’ he said.
To be successful, ‘designs need to be bold and in line with modern times,’ commented Mrs. Plange who was also on an exploratory trip to assess possibilities of sourcing from East Africa.
Value added samples of wet blue leather sourced from all three countries was shared with stakeholders. Speaking on ITC’s long-standing engagement in the African leather sector, SITA coordinator, Mr. Govind Venuprasad observed that the relationship between ITC and the COMESA region dates back to over 20 years.
Alongside the consultative meetings, SITA consultant, Mrs. Wariko Waita spoke with Er. Elli N. Pallangyo, assistant director, Ministry of Industry and Trade, in the Government of the United Republic of Tanzania and Ms. Beatrice Mwasi, the executive secretary, Leather Articles Entrepreneurs Association as well as founder-director of Sanabora Design House Limited based in Nairobi, to understand and examine the prospects and possibilities of interventions by SITA.
Er. Pallangyo has been part of the SITA consultative process lauds the project for its effective engagement of stakeholders. Commenting on the aptness of sector selection, she observed, ‘East African economies are heavily agro-based and SITA has prioritised sectors such as leather, pulses, sunflower and others which will really create value for SMEs. Being an agrarian society, Tanzanians depend on agricultural activities across the value chain.’
‘The United Republic of Tanzania is in the process of working on a number of agriculture development plans, which includes strategy for the leather sector being developed through the SITA project, linking the two for the sector will be the next step,’ Er. Pallangyo stated. The leather sector is currently a priority for development and ‘SITA has come at an opportune time,’ she notes.
In the leather sector, currently the entire good quality wet blue is exported, Er. Pallangyo explains. And, local manufactures have to work with the lower quality product, which affects quality. ‘There is a need to move up the value chain – to do more value addition to the leather available in the country. This will also improve the quality of finished products in the market,’ she said adding that ‘with SITA there is an opportunity to learn and put in place good practices for the industry.’
‘With the direct connection with India through SITA, the value addition will be guided by reality and what is right for the market. As a result we position ourselves to access an even larger market share,’ Er. Pallangyo stated.
According to Ms. Mwasi, who has been involved with SITA since the initial meeting held in Nairobi in July 2014, SITA ‘provides an opportunity to meet tanners and create partnerships.’
SITA presents opportunities for the much needed public-private partnerships as well as private-private (manufactures with tanners) partnerships, said Ms. Mwasi. What needs to be addressed is, ‘vertical integration, backward integration and looking for markets. SITA can help create these networks,’ she asserts.
Expressing her satisfaction on SITA’s priority for the leather sector, not only in Kenya but also in Uganda and Tanzania, she underscored SITA’s key role in supporting the tanners to supply the quality product that she and other high-end manufacturers look for.