Africa is currently commodity dependent in its global trade engagement particularly in agro-based sectors where it has strong presence. Therefore, an in depth analysis of the leather industry which is an important component of agri-business in the continent is discussed in this paper. The attempt takes cognizance of its key socio-economic aspects related to unemployment, wealth creation, rural development and gender parity. As such, the need for appropriate transformational strategies as prerequisite to the continent’s sustainable development initiatives are investigated. It is envisaged that these strategies will encompass sustainable models of translating the continent to product dependency and inculcate a diversified approach to the resultant value added products anticipated to have huge potential.
The approach is to strengthen Africa’s regional value chain platform as a preamble to the global value chain entry which, for a long time has placed the continent towards commodity dependence. Whilst focusing on the regional value chains, relevant stratums of the leather sector are considered in this paper. This initiative encompasses depiction of Africa’s performance, innovation and developmental strides so far achieved. Major results indicate that low to medium level artisanal skills and long experienced practioners (5-30yrs) consolidates the continent’s strength. In addition, the existence of youthful entrepreneurs (aged 30-49) provides a solid ground for the transformational quest to be pursued in Africa.
To actualize on this initiative, the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa-Leather and Leather Products Institute in collaboration with The Common Wealth Secretariat (ComSec) has successfully established a regional design studio (RDS) whose objective is to promote value addition, increase productivity and competitiveness, market access, regional integration and incentivize the drive towards product diversification and regional value added product dependence. Thusly, the presentation asserts that to attain this aspired position the approach has to be all encompassing, adopt a triple helix approach (Member states, Private sector and Academia) and operate on a strengthened regional value chain platform.
Prof. Dr. Mwinyikione Mwinyihija
Executive Director, African Leather and Leather Products Institute