Leather stakeholders have thrown their weight behind calls to ban importation of mitumba shoes.
Under the umbrella of Leather Apex Society of Kenya, the stakeholders said the well-thought and timely actions by the Kenyan government will lead to an exponential growth of the leather sector.
This they said will inspire investor confidence, motivate local production and ultimately create value and jobs for farmers and young Kenyans.
Secretary General Beatrice Mwasi, praised the policy recommendation to either ban or boost import charges on foreign-made leather shoes saying this would mark a watershed moment for the Kenyan leather industry while demonstrating the power of collective advocacy.
Earlier in the week, Trade and Investment Cabinet Secretary Moses Kuria said that the government will from next year ban the importation of the second hand shoes.
Speaking in Laikipia, Kuria said the move will help promote the local shoe industry in Laikipia.
The CS said Kenyans should thus ready themselves to put on locally manufactured shoes or walk barefoot.
Kuria said the shoes which are being imported should have a 50 per cent levy to help residents of Laikipia.
Mwasi in a statement to newsrooms said, “This move by the government is in line with leather stakeholders and recommendations over the years. Indeed, the proposed legislation is the result of long-term efforts by a variety of stakeholders, including manufacturers, artisans, farmers, and, most crucially, young entrepreneurs who represent Kenya’s leather industry future.”
She said the leather sector has immense potential to transform the economy of Kenya and had been identified as a priority manufacturing sub-sector under the Big 4 agenda and was key to increasing the manufacturing pillar contribution in the economy from 9 to 15 percent of GDP.
Currently, the leather sector represents 0.3 per cent of GDP, 0.7 per cent of formal employment and 1.8 per cent of exports with contribution to real GDP and exports having grown substantially at 14 per cent and 34 per cent p.a. respectively over the past 5 years.
Mwasi said Kenya hosts the 3rd largest livestock population in Africa which can provide a strong raw base for the local industry.
According to her, in 2012 the Food Agriculture Organization estimated at 3 million cow hides, 4.3 million goatskins, 2.9 million sheepskins accounting for 10.67 per cent of Africa’s cow hide production, 4.94 per cent of goat skins and 3.75 per cent of sheepskins in the continent.
“The ban will provide a more solid market for local farmers who produce raw leather. Farmers, many of whom have been struggling with fluctuating pricing and poor demand, will discover newfound purpose and financial security as the market for their produce becomes more consistent and profitable,” she noted.
The SG said this is anticipated to stimulate more sustainable farming practices and minimise the number of livestock sold or slaughtered prematurely.
She also said despite the country having suffered declined leather production over the decades Kenya still boasts of a strong leather value chain industry base which includes 25 formal footwear manufacturing units, 11 registered leather products micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs).
Others include 15 registered tanneries and 4 packaging and logistics companies, a small and medium-sized enterprise (SME) park and a training centre for increased value addition.
“The leather business is labour-intensive, and shifting the emphasis back to local production has the potential to create thousands of jobs, not just in manufacturing but also in allied industries such as transportation, marketing, and retail. This change would be especially beneficial to young Kenyans, who make up a sizable chunk of the country’s unemployed population,” said Mwasi.
She said Leather Apex estimates that increased demand for leather products in Kenya could lead to an increase of over 50,000 jobs across the value chain with the sector contributing in excess of Sh25 billion up from the current 14 billion shillings.
“This legislative shift must be accompanied by other measures, such as quality control requirements, access to cheap financing, and expenditures in skills development. The government must also work to establish a brand for Kenyan leather on a national and international scale,” she said.
She said the leather sector however continues to note with concern the high lending rates that continue to make leather manufacturing in Kenya uncompetitive as compared to neighbouring countries such as Ethiopia and the need for build skills especially in tanneries and finished goods processing through investing in vocational training.
“There is a need for continued investment in modern slaughterhouses and training in flaying for abattoirs while farmers need education on effects of branding and tick control methods to ensure hides and skins are of the highest quality,” she said.