The East African Community (EAC) member states have been urged to create a readily accessible regional market for leather products and a conducive business environment to promote regional value addition in the leather sector.
This came out at the EAC Regional Leather Forum convened by the East African Business Council brought together over 40 Industry champions in the leather manufacturing from Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda.
According to World Bank Kenya Leather Industry – Diagnosis, Strategy and Action Plan, Leather and Leather products among the most widely traded agro-based commodities in the world, with a global estimated trade value of over US$ 150 billion a year, more than five times that of coffee. Despite owning about 15 per cent of the world’s cattle population, Africa accounts for only 8 per cent of the world production of cattle hides and 4 per cent of world leather production.
In a statement released by EABC, the EAC Deputy Secretary General Productive and Social Sectors Mr Christophe Bazivamo, represented by Mr. Jean Baptiste Havugimana , EAC Director Productive Sectors said “the EAC Secretariat and the Partner States have prioritized the development of the Leather Sector Value Chain for job creation and as a means of providing affordable, new and quality options for leather products to the citizens.”
The 19th Ordinary Summit held in February 2018 in Kampala, directed the Council to put in place mechanisms that support leather manufacturing in the region. The EAC Secretariat is currently finalizing the development of a regional EAC Leather and Leather Products Strategy (2019 – 2029).
In his remarks Hon. Peter Mathuki, EABC CEO said,” Leather is one of the flagship sectors of the EAC, there is a need for continuous and collective advocacy to ensure effective implementation of the regional EAC Leather and Leather Products Strategy (2019 – 2029).” He urged leather industry players to embark on the formation of the regional leather association in close partnership with the EABC.
Ms. Beatrice Mwasi, Secretary General Kenya Leather Apex Society urged EAC leather industry to be more innovative, improve branding and urged the EAC Partner States to offer incentives for value addition in the leather sector.
Among challenges facing the leather sector include lack of defined standards, poor quality infrastructure of tanneries and abbotoirs, illicit trade, insufficient supply of chemicals, equipment and accessories used in leather, import levy on leather inputs by some Partner States, policy incoherence and uncontrolled imports of leather.
The industrialists urged for zero rate of imported inputs used in the leather industry, establishment of structures to implement policies. They also called upon member states to collectively and gradually phase-out second hand leather shoes , poor quality leather products in the region, skills development, amendment of outdated policies, business cooperation, promotion of export diversification, curbing value leakage and also reinvigorating the potential of the leather industry in creating jobs, income generation and alleviation of poverty.
Regional leather strategy
“The government to should fast track implementation of regional leather strategy, be the first consumer of leather products and ease trading of leather products among the EAC Partner State,” said Hon Peter Mathuki, EABC CEO.
The forum charted out appropriate recommendations on regional policy matters as espoused by the Summit and called for a coherent and robust marketing strategy, good manufacturing practices, an enabling, predictable and stable business environment by collectively addressing governance issues, regulatory, market and information challenges which reduce incentives for private investments along the leather and leather products value chain.
The EAC Regional Leather Forum is organized by the East African Business Council (EABC) in collaboration with the EAC Secretariat and with the support of GIZ/GFA project on Socio-Economic Integration.
EABC has been at the forefront of lobbying for a favorable business environment within the EAC bloc. As such it recently called on the partner states to remove Non-tariff barriers in order to boost trade within the bloc.
EABC’s advocacy efforts successfully led to the establishment of a mechanism to monitor and report Non-Tariff Barriers in EAC, implementation of the EAC Consultative Dialogue Forum, signing of the East African Code of Conduct for Business, Harmonization of over than 150 product Standards, harmonization of work permits and reduction of fees for East African Citizens, signing of Mutual Recognition Agreements (MRA) for Architects, engineers and accountants, among others achievements.