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Regional trade bloc pushes Africa to tap into demand for leather abroad

In Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa where the Jamaica Shoe Factory is located, Ethiopia

June 16, 2015  workers leather designs are processed for sale. The 125 staffed establishment is run by Tesfaye Beyene who inherited it from his father in 1970. According to Tesfaye, the company last year produced 160,000 pairs of shoes for their customers from MoroccoEgyptEthiopia and other parts of the world.

Tesfaye said “We are exporting these shoes to a Japanese client called Hirokee in Yokohama. We have so far shipped three times for them. They have bought 10,000 pairs of shoes and they have placed new orders again for which we are preparing the raw materials. These types of shoes have high demand in the Japanese market. We also charge them a reasonable price,”

Ethiopia earned 250 million US dollars from leather exports alone last year and aims to double the figures in the next five years. The country, like other leather producing countries in Africa is encouraged to promote and develop its leather industry through regional partnerships, so they can have a fair chance of representation in the global sphere. According to Researchers, Africa will make more profits on leather when the emphasis is placed on finished goods rather than raw exports.

The All African leather fair held in Addis Ababa recently and industry stakeholders such as tanners, chemical and technology suppliers and others, got a good opportunity to exchange ideas and market their products.

Mwinyikione Mwinyihija, director of COMESA’s leather and leather products institute which organized the fair, said “Global value chain is around 300 billion worth of value in US dollars. Unfortunately Africa only gains around 3.3 percent to around 4 percent max, while we are actually supplying 26 percent of the livestock to the world. So you can look at this vast gap and it tells you that Africa is actually on the losing grip,”

COMESA is working with SudanEthiopiaKenyaUgandaEritreaRwandaMalawiZambia and Zimbabwe, to market their leather.

Robert Semakula, the managing director of Bobbie Leathers Limited in Uganda, says says Africa should employ new technology in processing its leather into finished products. “Like five years ago, much of the leather wasn’t processed. We were exporting raw hides. But today, exportation was banned. Now much of it is semi processed. But even that is not good enough. When we are at this fair you can see that everything is finished. It is a finished leather of different grades. This is where we want to go. This is what we don’t have there, in my country. We process up to one stop stage,”

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