Leather & Footwear

Leather industry emerging to become the new job creator in Kenya

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The government is banking upon the leather industry to create approximately 22, 000 jobs by the year 2022 as quoted by PS Betty Maina. Apart from agro- processing, textiles and apparels, oil, mining and gas, leather industry is the other area that the Kenya Government is relying upon to emerge as the new job creator. According to the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics, the leather industry accounted for only 2 % of the formal manufacturing jobs and 1.3 % of manufacturing value added in 2013. As reported by PS Maina at the Kenya Leather Development Programme meeting which was supported by the USAID Hub and the industrialization ministry, “The government considers the leather sector as a critical component of the economy by creating 70,000 jobs in Kenya by 2022 and a boost to the economy from the current $14 billion to $55 billion.” She further added, “The training gained through the Kenya Leather Development Programme should set us towards the path of fulfilling these objectives.”

The meeting helped in developing a diagnostic study on the gulf existing in the skill area in the leather industry. At present, the leather sector employs only 14,000 people during peak season. The informal sector is the bigger employer, accounting for 10,000 of the 14,000 workers. The World Bank reports suggest that although there is a great opportunity for growth, the prevailing structure of the industry is restrictive and limiting. It also hints at a narrow distribution of wealth among the stakeholders. According to the Kenya Leather Industry’s Diagnosis, Strategy and Action Plan prepared by the World Bank, “Footwear is the biggest leather goods subsector in Kenya, while the handbag subsector is the most competitive vis-à-vis global markets.”

The report suggests that Kenya has an edge because of its abundant natural resources of cattle, goats, and sheep and it must be noted that the country is the third largest livestock holder in Africa. The industry’s growth is faces the obstacle of high cost of domestically sold leather and leather inputs, including 25% duty on imported inputs; labor and electricity. The second-hand clothes market, on the other hand, offers high and low quality leather and non-leather footwear at bargain prices. The report further suggests, “Meanwhile, Ethiopia is emerging as a new world class player in leather footwear due to its low-cost skilled labor, improvements in the quality of its raw material supply, a stable business climate, and the establishment of new economic zones.”

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