East African Tanners Gain Exposure to Global Markets at the Asia Pacific Leather Fair

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By Vandana Prakash Nair

  • SITA organized for a delegation of six East African tanneries to attend the Asia Pacific Leather Fair (APLF) held in Hong Kong from 13-15 March 2019.
  • The six tanneries have committed to achieving Leather Working Group (LWG) certification  with SITA’s support.
  • As a result of the steps taken to achieve LWG, the quality of their leather has improved, enabling SITA to lead its first-ever delegation to APLF.
  • Despite challenges in the global leather market, the tanners confirmed a significant number of orders worth a total of $1.3 million, with still more currently under negotiation.

In March 2019, SITA led its first ever delegation comprised of six tanneries from Kenya and Uganda to the Asia Pacific Leather Fair (APLF) held in Hong Kong. The APLF is one of the world’s largest annual leather trade shows. Held in the Hong Kong Exhibition and Convention Centre from 13 to 15 March, APLF 2019 hosted over 900 exhibitors from 42 countries, attracting over 15,000 visitors from 93 countries.

For the SITA-supported tanneries, participating in the APLF was eye-opening, for the scale of the international exposure that they received.  The APLF is a business platform connecting thousands of international buyers and suppliers in the leather sector. Beyond commercial transactions, global industry players discussed the latest innovations and trends in the leather sector at seminars organized on the side-lines of the fair.

The tanners benefitted from participating in the APLF due to their commitment to achieving the Leather Working Group (LWG) certification[i], a protocol promoting environmental compliance and sustainable businesses practices in the leather sector. In 2018, with SITA’s support, the tanners started working toward achieving LWG certification. They have shown good progress; due to their commitment, the quality of leather produced by the tanneries has improved, enhancing their competiveness in global markets.

With so much competition for space, SITA was lucky to be allocated a spot for a booth strategically located next to the dining area, ensuring a constant flow of visitors. The tanners had sufficient space to display their wet blue and crust products. Although new to the fair, SITA’s booth attracted a fair amount of attention, receiving visitors interested in East African leather from Indonesia, Japan, India, Turkey, Austria, China and Pakistan, among others.  Said Mr. Saqib Munir, Technical Manager of Athi River Tanneries, Kenya, “It is amazing to be here, very convenient. Under the current market conditions, it is great to be together, meeting, and doing business with people from East Africa and across the globe.” The SITA booth also received attention from a few African tanneries also present at the fair (but not part of the delegation) interested in taking part in future SITA activities. A number of Indian companies that SITA has worked with in the past also visited the booth and placed some orders.


Always busy at the SITA booth!

Due to challenges in the global leather markets, some tanners were more successful than others in selling their wares. Even so, the tanners managed to confirm a significant number of orders worth a total of $1.3 million, exceeding initially set targets, with more currently under negotiation. Indeed one delegate, Mr. Mohamed Abuker, Managing Director, Mas Tannery, Kenya, remarked “The market is getting better, it is promising, and I will come again to Hong Kong next year.”

SITA along with its beneficiary tanners from East Africa made  a first appearance at the APLF. It is clear from the number of confirmed orders that East African leather is competitive internationally. The tanners have established themselves as global players, and will be returning next year, with an even stronger focus on value addition and environmentally compliant products. 


[i] The Leather Working Group (LWG) is a multi-stakeholder group which develops and maintains a protocol that assesses the environmental compliance and performance capabilities of leather manufacturers and promotes sustainable and appropriate environmental business practices within the leather industry. LWG contributes to Sustainable Development Goals 3, 6, 12, 13, 14 and 17.

 For more information, please visit the LWG website: https://www.leatherworkinggroup.com/who-we-are/about-us

Voices of SITA
Voices of SITA
This blog provides a window into the SITA project. Through stories from India, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda and the United Republic of Tanzania, this blog showcases the project’s progress and impact.