A new regional design studio offering skills training to boost production and exports of finished leather goods in Eastern and Southern Africa has been hailed a success by project partners.
Mwinyikione Mwinyihija, Executive Director of the Commonwealth Market for Eastern and Southern Africa Leather and Leather Products Institute, has expressed the organisation’s “appreciation and gratitude” to the Commonwealth Secretariat for providing technical and financial assistance to establish the studio.
The studio, the first of its kind in the region, opened in Mombasa, Kenya on 9 May at a ceremony attended by Adan Mohamed, Kenya’s Minister of Trade, Industrialization and Enterprise Development and Sindiso Ngwenya, Secretary General of COMESA, who said: "This regional design studio is beginning to transform the leather sector because it is changing mind-sets."
Forty participants from 11 countries took part in the first training session provided by a Canadian leather design company. One of the participants, Richard Mulenga from Zamleather, a Zambian company providing leather for footwear, commented: “With workshops like this, the regional design studio will promote value addition, productivity, competitiveness, market access and regional integration in Africa.”
The global leather industry is worth an estimated US$120 billion yet Africa currently makes up just 4 percent of this total, according to the institute.
Leather producers in Eastern and Southern Africa have traditionally exported raw hides with a fixed value and have not had the opportunity or resources to branch out into developing higher value products, such as clothing, shoes and accessories. The studio aims to fill this gap by providing artisanal skills and design training for the production of high-end leather goods. The project is also expected to create jobs in areas where unemployment is high, particularly for young people.
Praising the project, Dr Mwinyihija highlighted new opportunities for the leather sector to access important global value chains. “The Eastern and Southern African regional leather design studio will address long-standing design weaknesses and improve market entry of the region’s leather products,” he said.
Attending the opening ceremony and training, Dr Rashmi Banga, Head of Trade Competitiveness at the Commonwealth Secretariat said: “The success of the new design studio has far exceeded our expectations. Now the project is in full swing, it has the potential to revolutionise the industry and bring huge benefit to people whose livelihoods depend on the leather trade.”
Find out more about the Commonwealth Secretariat and the Commonwealth Market for Eastern and Southern Africa Leather and Leather Products Institute (COMESA/LLPI) Regional Design Studio