Africa contributes 21 per cent of the total livestock production in the world yet it earns only 2.67 per cent of the total global earnings from the multi-billion dollars industry, says COMESA secretary general Sindiso Ngwenya.
Mr Ngwenya attributed the poor earnings to low level of adoption and use of science, technology and innovation.
“The continent earns approximately US$4 billion from leather and leather products while globally the industry is greater than the sales of cotton, sugar, tea and meat combined earning over US$150 billion,” Ngwenya said. “This is despite being a bi-product of meat processing.”
In his statement delivered during the 4th Fourth Biennial Conference of stakeholders in agriculture and Network of Universities – called RUFORUM in Maputo, Mozambique recently Mr. Ngwenya said Africa’s supply of raw materials and semi-processed leather products was a low yield earner with minimum profits.
In order to advance Africa’s potential to become competitive in the leather and leather products sector, the Secretary General advocated for involvement of the local universities in enhancing research and technology to add value to the region’s agro-based commodities.
“Improvements in the leather tanning processes and designing of leather products will require research”,
“Development of Small and medium Enterprises tools will require research. Reverse engineering will require research. This is in addition to the development of technology to fabricate machinery for the leather industry.”he said
Mr Ngwenya observed that even though COMESA has, over the last decade, recorded an annual real GDP growth of approximately 6.5 percent this growth has not led to the economic transformation.
Low value adding economic activities and trade in raw materials is still prominent in our member states, he said.
In order to address this issue COMESA is developing an industrial policy that seeks to encourage countries to enhance their manufacturing sector and to add value to their primary produce.
This is intended to improve the competitiveness of the industrial sector, thereby enhancing the expansion of intra-regional trade in manufactured goods and achieve structural transformation of the economies of its 19 Member States.
“This is easily attainable through the specialized institutions that already have the mandates to spear head these initiatives by working closely with the Universities both in the region and at global level”, he said.
COMESA Leather and Leather Products Institute (LLPI) based in Ethiopia has already developed strong linkages with Universities, Government and the Private sector under the Triple Helix approach which links the three institutions in the advancement of science, technology and innovation for industrial development.
“The development and implementation of the industrial policy will boost employment creation, particularly among our youth and ensure sustainable economic growth and poverty reduction in the region” Ngwenya said.
It is estimated that the COMESA region alone has a demand of 365 million pairs of footwear and one billion square feet of leather.
Similarly, COMESA has developed the Seed Harmonization Implementation Plan (COMSHIP) under the Alliance for Commodity Trade in Eastern and Southern Africa (ACTESA) with a view to developing the seed sector. This is aimed at advancing agricultural development along the value chain.
In order to deal with issues of biotechnology, COMESA is implementing a biotechnology programme alongside other initiatives that all require inputs from regional and international researchers, academics and professionals.