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Tanzania: Leather Industry Sets Pace for Industrial Revival

Monday, May 02, 2016 > 12:04:51

(All Africa By Pius Rugonzibwa)

Implementations of the fifth phase government fresh agenda on industrialization have kicked off with a number of activities now taking place, including holding stakeholders meetings and workshops to discuss and chart best ways the ambitious agenda should reach the players.

In Mwanza last week, stakeholders and investors in one of the important sectors poised to significantly contribute to the country's economy, met for training as part of the strategies the government has initiated to approach the new envisaged drive.

Endowed with abundances in livestock and other resources, the Lake Zone regions and their Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) had a lot to share, as they looked forward to participating in modern investment in the Leather Industry.

Opening the training, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Trade, Industries and Marketing Prof Adolph Mkenda said the state was determined to revive the dead industries as well makie sure many more new ones are established.

Prof Mkenda made it clear that Tanzanian youths need now getting well prepared for the reforms in all areas in the production sectors especially those investing in the leather industry.

He said gone are days when few Tanzanians depended on shoddy businesses to earn dirty money, adding that the government was set to combat the malpractices in the business ventures, including putting stringent measures in promoting local manufacturers by connecting them to international markets.

"The government would like to see and promote genuine businesses with true passion in contributing to the economy and not otherwise. We are set to create genuine riches and not conmen who used to trade using fake and controversial business deals," he said.

The PS said to walk the talk, strategies are underway for the local investors to be connected to foreign markets as well as being provided with required expertise and capital to be able to compete in both local and international markets.

Prof Mkenda said the leather sub sector was one of areas that could produce the richest players in the Lake Zone and the country at large insisting already foreign investors have shown interest and are set to introduce investments in the sector.

He was of the view however that once the leather sub sector has grown enough to be able to satisfy the local market there will be no reason why Tanzania should keep on importing substandard materials like plastic footwear and other inferior leather products.

Besides promoting local investments and supporting SMEs, Prof Mkenda said his Ministry was also set to introduce special campaign that will educate Tanzanians on a need to increase consumption to the country's goods including leather products.

The sentiments by the PS was echoed by the acting Director General of the Tanzania Trade Development Authority (TANTRADE) Mr Edwin Rutageruka who said his office was determined to support the local investors in Leather as well as the Dar Es Salaam Institute of Technology (DIT) Mwanza Campus which is a center of excellence for training in Leather Technology.

"One of the challenges facing the leather sub sector was poor hides and a skin produced at the moment but my office has now launched training sessions on how to prepare quality skins ready for the production," he said.

But speaking as he closed the workshop, the Mwanza Regional Administrative Secretary Mr Clodwig Mtweve said special drive should now be directed at increasing more capacity for the local manufacturers of leather goods for the sector to increase more contribution in the local market than it was the case today.

He commended the initiative where local players in the sector are now provided with training on the best practises saying the move should be sustainably maintained to create more employment and increase its share to the economy.

He said the 2014/2015 gathered statistics showed drastic fall in leather exports where 541,260 of cattle hides and skins, 226,398 of goats and 100,687 of sheep were recorded against 1,083,450 of cattle, 494,918 of goats and 145,552 of sheep on the previous year. "The decline was as a results of illegal trade, lack of local manufacturing capacity and unfair competition.

I hope all these challenges will now be addressed as we strive to revive our own capacities," he said in a speech read on his behalf by the Regional Education Officer Mr Hamis Maulid. To emphasize on the importance of capacity buildings to the local investors, the TANTRADE boss Mr Rutageruka said more such trainings will be conducted to prepare the players into serious business ahead.

According to him, this year's international trade exhibitions will witness massive participation of leather processors manufacturers from all over the country particularly the Lake Zone with rich possession of leather resources.

"We are going to set aside enough pavilions for them so they can show case their produces and attract international markets," he said. In their message the graduates said the leather could attract many youths to join it if deliberate measures were put in place to attract them including the introduction of special incentives.

"We thank the government for coming with these capacity building program but we are of the view that special approaches should be in place like making sure the entrepreneurs are enabled to buy modern tools," said Ms Pili Lauzi.

On the tools, the Chairman of the Umoja Leather Products Mr Thobias Mugushi said it was difficult for many of the entreprenuers to afford the tools since many of them were too expensive.

He mentioned some of the tools as sole attaching machine which was sold at 3m/- per piece, Post bed machine selling at 2.5m/- each and Skyving machine which is also costing 2.5m/- each.

"We simply can not afford these machines unless we are supposed with funds or someone is buying them for us. We are told there are institutions designed to issue loans but it extremely difficult to approach them," said Mr Mugushi. Now suppose all are well, equipment are available and production is smooth, what about safety and health assurance of the players in the production chain?

That was a question poised by an expert from Austria whose visit was deemed as timely as the Leather industry is revamped to resume mass production. According to the Leather Technologist who also an expert in leather based hazardous substance from the United Nations Industrial Development (UNIDO) headquarters Ms Elisa Gritsch, Tanzania needs to invest heavily in the sector by ensuring safety of the workers first.

She said it was common for locally made footwear and other leather products to face a risk of contracting different forms of skin diseases including unltimately cancer since it was evident almost all the products does not undergo thorough laboratory testing during the manufacturing processes.

She said even before considering mass production for local manufacturers, workers in leather industries and consumers are at great hearth risks for undergoing no tests, amid the sector being scientifically proved to contain hazardous substances.

"The leather tanning process is known to be one of the four most harmful industries because of the manufacturing processes passing through a complex chemistry used to create leather from skins," she said.

An expert was in the country as a facilitator in two workshops that imparted information and knowledge on building up risk management for harzadous substances in lather and footwear conducted for the local experts at the Dar es Salaam Institute of Technology (DIT) in Mwanza and Dares Salaam campuses.

She warned that if the tanning process was not under strict control, hazardous chemicals normally found in leather might cause negative effects on humans, animals and environments.

"Therefore additional safety precautions need to be installed to protect all the parties along the leather supply chain from its production to its disposal," she said. Commenting on the current development in the sector, the DIT Mwanza Campus Head Dr Albert Mmari said lack of professional leather technologists and internationally certified leather laboratory was a serious setback as the country embarks in reviving leather industries.

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