SMALL and medium enterprises making leather products can now manufacture quality products that can attract market at home, East African Community and COMESA region
By Prossy Nandudu
SMALL and medium enterprises making leather products can now manufacture quality products that can attract market at home, East African Community and COMESA region following the launch of the strategy that will guide the operations of the sector.
East African Community has a total population of about 125 million people while COMESA region has about 500 million people which is a huge market for leather products if they are of quality.
This is according to the minister of state for trade in charge of Industry, Dr. James Shinyabulo Mutende, while launching the leather strategy at Imperial Royal Hotel in Kampala.
"Without quality and following the standards required, we cannot compete in the global market whose taste and preferences are changing every day, so quality in our SMEs is a must," said Mutende.
The strategy is looking at all aspects that will make the leather industry more attractive and competitive by addressing issues of quality and standards in addition to gender in the production process.
The key three areas in the strategy include to value addition and adherence to standards, environment management and sensitization of the masses to appreciate the leather industry so that they can consume locally made leather products.
The leather desk officer in the ministry of trade Francis Odongo adds that currently Uganda generates $40m per annum but has the potential of generating $270m in five years to come.
The strategy that was supported by the COMESA Leather and Leather products Institute is aimed at helping SME in the leather sector to upgrade and become competitive on the international market.
The director of the Leather and Leather Products Institute, Prof. Mwinyikione Mwinyija explains that Uganda just like any other country can grow the leather industry with the strategy in place.
Mwinyikione explains that there is demand for 20m leather products and about 80m in the COMESA region an indication that we are undersupplying the market.
"By allowing second hand shoes or mivumba to come into the country is because we have not yet developed SMEs in the leather sector. If an SME can produce two pairs of shoes, it means it can employ three people and that is too low, we want them to come to the African average of 7 to 8 people directly and the same number indirectly," said Mwinyikione.
He said that the institute has so far worked with leather SMEs in Ethiopia which have been able to double their production and the same modal can be applied in Uganda.
In Ethiopia, SME's in leather were clustered and these started working together and were given trainings to improve products for the market.
One of the SME has been able to grow from 60 million pairs of shoes per month to 12 in a month and would like to move to 12,000 in the next four years, adds Mwuinyikione.
"This is possible if we increase awareness on the standards needed in the leather industry, creating awareness and improving on quality," he added.
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