Whipping up Expectations

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The leather industry is sure to gain the USD 500 million targeted by the Growth and Transformation Plan (GTP) despite its current lag, said Abdissa Adugna, secretary general of the Ethiopian Leather Industries Association(ELIA) at the opening of the seventh annual all African leather fair on February 20 at the Millennium Hall.
Started in 2008, the all-African leather fair is one of the highlights of the world’s leather industry calendar, according to Abdissa. There were 200 exhibitors, 46 of whom came from 22 countries in this year’s event.  
Finished leather products, like shoes, belts, and clothes were put on display along with different types of leather that can be used by producers. There were also exhibits of accessories related to leather production, like soles.
There are currently investors from seven countries in the leather industry, according to Abdissa. They came from the United Kingdom, Italy, Turkey, German, China, Sudan and Thailand.  Many giant leather companies are coming to invest in Ethiopia in a very short time and the country will close the gap in the GTP and come up on top, he reaffirmed.  
President Mulatu Teshome (Ph.D.) who opened the event doesn’t share Abdissa’s optimism, however, citing that many things have to change in the sector in order to meet the GTP target.
“The growth in the sector is slow,” the president said. “Private producers have to start manufacturing their products using a higher standard of  quality and producing a  much larger quantity.”
The president further went on to say that salaries have to be adjusted for leather sector employees. Many other factors besides human resource problems affect leather production, however, including animal disease and careless extraction of hides.  
According to research conducted by the Ethiopian Leather Industry Development Institute (LIDI) in April 2013, Ethiopia’s livestock population is estimated to be at 44.3 million cattle, 23 million sheep, and 23.3 million goats. Cockle (or Ekek as it is locally known), is one of the prominent diseases degrading the quality of 47.1% of sheep skins, 24% of goat skins and 48.6% of cattle hides produced in 8 Addis Ababa and Modjo tanneries.
Ethiopia exports finished leather to 40 countries, according to Abdissa. The largest importers of Ethiopian leather are China, Hong Kong, Italy, the United Kingdom, and America. In 2012/13, the leather industry earned USD 123.4 million.
During the 6th fair 202 exhibitors from 44 countries including Ethiopia participated and 13,400 visitors came. The Ethiopian Leather Industries Association was established in 1994 as the Ethiopian Tanners Association. It changed its name to Ethiopian Tanners, Footwear, and Leather Products Manufacturing in 2004.  
It finally ended up becoming the Ethiopian Leather Industries Association in 2007.  It counts 28 tanneries, 7 leather product manufacturers, 16 shoe manufacturers and 11 leather production companies as its members.