By Devika Jyothi
From 8-10 June, Supporting Indian Trade and Investment for Africa (SITA) took part in the 10th All African Leather Fair (AALF) held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Through its participation, SITA enabled beneficiary East African tanneries to access new markets and strengthen their intra-African trade linkages.
The goal of the AALF is to create market opportunities for leather products, link buyers and producers, promote exports, as well as attract domestic and foreign investors to the sector. Nearly 100 exhibitors, including local and international organisations, representing all major tanners, footwear and leather goods producers, and garment manufacturers displayed their products at the Fair. Companies from Burundi, Turkey, Brazil and China as well as Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Malawi and Zambia were among those to attend the Fair. AALF 2018 was organised in association with the Leather Industry Development Institute (LIDI), Ethiopia; Africa Leather and Leather Products Institute (AALPI), the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) and Ethiopian Leather Industries Association (ELIA).
In his opening remarks, ELIA Chairman Tatek Yirga said that “the Fair plays a central role in strengthening and developing markets between Africa and the rest of the world.”
According to State Minister of Industry, H.E. Bogale Feleke, “the forum would facilitate the conversion of the enormous potential in the African leather sector to global business and present credible solutions to the challenges affecting the sector.”
In line with its mission for the sector, SITA supported beneficiary tanners in East Africa to display their range of processed leather as well as interact with potential new customers. A total of eight SITA-supported participants attended the Fair, representing seven tanneries – from Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania.
The SITA booth experienced a lot of traffic with many enquiries on the products on display. Besides leather industry stakeholders and the general public, the Ethiopian Minister of Industry, H.E. Ambachew Mekonen, State Minister of Industry, H.E. Bogale Feleke and Hon. Betty Maina, Principal Secretary, Ministry of Industry, Trade and Co-operatives, Kenya, were among the high-level delegates who visited the booth.
Ahead of the AALF, the SITA beneficiary tanners visited Batu Tannery in Addis Ababa, and were received by General Manager, Mr. Tatek Yirga who is also the Chairman of ELIA. The visit proved beneficial for knowledge transfer – in particular the exposure to the finished leather production processes. The delegation also visited Friendship Tannery in Modjo, which provided further exposure to Ethiopian leather production and opportunities for intra-African trade.
Commenting on the visit to tanneries, Mr. Fahd Feisal Bary of Kenya’s Nakuru Tanners Ltd. said, ‘I’ve learnt a lot about their products – how and what they produce, and where they buy.’
‘It was very interesting for us to see what Ethiopians are making, it is encouraging for us to move to finished leather and also interesting to see regional influences,’ added Mr. Saqib Munir, Athi River Tanneries, Kenya.
At the AALF, SITA organised a B2B meeting between Tanzanian, Kenyan and Ugandan SITA beneficiary companies and their Ethiopian counterparts along with ELIA and LIDI.
Several forthcoming linkages were also established among SITA participants. For example, an agreement is in progress between a SITA Mitreeki beneficiary and a shoe company in Uganda for the transfer of knowledge and technology for manufacturing shoes. The former is currently engaged in manufacturing leather goods and is looking to expand into shoes production based on a demand from current customers. Following the agreement, she will join the staff currently undergoing training in the Ugandan shoe factory to gain the necessary knowledge and technology.
Further, discussions are underway between an Indian shoe manufacturer and a Ugandan leather company for the supply of a specific quality of leather for the production of leather sole-bends as well as the technology to process it. Confident of manufacturing to the required specification, the Ugandan company has agreed to make a sample for quality verification.
In addition, the Indian shoe manufacturer has also agreed to provide necessary training, at his factory in India, for two staff working in a new shoe manufacturing facility in Kenya.
According to Mr. Niazali Hirani of Moshi Leather Industries Limited, Tanzania, the Fair and tannery visits have offered an enhanced understanding on best practices and technologies used in Ethiopian tanneries as well as on current market requirements. The Fair offered an excellent opportunity to interact with relevant stakeholders from the industry, he said.
‘Ethiopian leather sector has done well and offers key lessons in value addition. Other African countries can succeed by following the Ethiopian model,’ Mr. Hirani remarked.