ADDIS ABABA – Ethiopian leather industry stakeholders held first discussions on how to best capture opportunities emerging from the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).
The first workshop on “The Ethiopian Leather Industry and the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA): Opportunities and Challenges” was held at Hilton Addis last week.
The Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) organized the workshop in partnership with the Ethiopian Chamber of Commerce and Sectoral Associations (ECCSA), and the Ethiopian Leather Industries Association (ELIA).
The discussion was aimed at bringing all stakeholders together to discuss the opportunities the AfCFTA presents to the Ethiopian leather industry, appreciate the challenges facing it, and offer a platform for resolving the challenges.
“It also explored options on how best to position the Ethiopian leather industry to take advantage of the AfCFTA,” the organizer ECA.
Ethiopia, home to the largest livestock population in Africa, guarantees quality raw materials supply for its established leather industry dating back to the early 20th century.
That the country is also a State Party to the AfCFTA means that its leather products have access to a large and growing market of over 1.4 billion people, increasingly free of duties and other barriers.
During the discussions, ECA’s Regional Integration and Trade Division Director Stephen Karingi also outlined the comparative advantages Ethiopia’s leather sector has to capture the opportunity emerging from AfCFTA implementation.
“Ethiopia’s capacity with its resource endowment, combined with a rich history of producing and supplying processed leather products gives it a potential competitive advantage to become a successful player on the African single market,” he said.
Per World Bank estimates, the implementation of the free trade pact is expected to boost Africa’s exports by $560 billion, mostly in manufacturing.
Lead Executive for International and Regional Trade Integration at the Ministry of Trade, Tages Mulugeta said that “AfCFTA opens a new era of trade governance in Africa and it must be viewed as an opportunity to implement necessary structural reforms”.
The industry currently engages domestic and foreign investors across different segments and has enormous potential to boost export revenues, create more job opportunities, and contribute to Ethiopia’s overall development.
Despite its economic potential, businesses in the sector face various internal and external challenges that hamper their capacity to harness the opportunities in AfCFTA.
ELIA’s Acting Secretary General Endale Seyfu outlined the challenges including insufficient access to foreign currency and inadequate marketing and promotion. ECCSA President Melaku Ezezew, on his part, called for coordinated actions of all stakeholders to resolve the challenges.
Over 40 participants attended the workshop, representing relevant Ethiopian Government agencies, the private sector as well as international organizations and regional stakeholders such as the Africa Leather and Leather Products Institute.
The participants welcomed the targeted and sector-specific approach taken in the workshop and emphasized the need to ensure this is only the beginning of a series of engagements of this type and not a one-off exercise.
They also expressed their support to the proposal to explore options for organizing a leather-specific trade fair around the AfCFTA either as a standalone event or as an enhancement to the existing annual All Africa Leather Fair, according to the ECA.