Africa Leather and Leather Products Institute (ALLPI) is implementing a 10-year strategic plan (2016–2025), aimed at transforming the continent’s leather sector – from production and export of raw materials to production and export of finished products – and enhancing the leather sector trade integration under the African Continental Free Trade Area and Tripartite structure. Notably, it is also becoming pertinent that the goal perused with ALLPI will have to inculcate a transformational approach that will include being a knowledge-based institution rather than remaining as developmental.
The strategic plan, aligned with the AU’s Agenda 2063 and the UN Sustainable Development Goals, and premised on the involvement of public, private sector and academia (‘triple helix’), actively contributes towards transforming livelihoods in Africa through sustainable leather-sector development that involves value addition, enhanced productivity and competitiveness. As such, building of specialised skills among the SME workforce in Africa is fundamental. In addressing this goal, harmonisation of curricula at national and regional institutions (vocational, tertiary and university level) that offer leather-based training becomes a critical factor in pursuance of the industrialisation pillar at regional and continental level. To date, ALLPI has harmonised curricula for institutions in countries such as Burundi, Eritrea, Sudan, Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda, Zambia, Eswatini and Mauritius (which is a work in progress).
Some of the milestones reached in the past three years include capitalisation of SME clusters and incubation centres (seven SME clusters); greening of the leather sector; the launch of the member states-based satellite design; and planning and execution of demand-driven programmes under the annual regional consultative forum. Examples of satellite design studios identified were Eritrea, Ethiopia, Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Malawi, Uganda, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Mauritius.
ALLPI is at the high level of equipping six countries, through the support of the Arab Bank for Economic Development in Africa, to fully avail the technological capacity needed for the competitive production of high-quality leather products in the regional and global arenas. The countries under this project (with room to replicate the success stories of other countries by end-2020) include Burundi, Eritrea, Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda and Zambia. Moreover, similar support towards the establishment of satellite design studios has been accorded by EU-RISM, benefiting the DRC, Malawi, Zambia, Zimbabwe (Bulawayo and Harare), while the Trade and Development Bank’s corporate social responsibility is benefiting Ethiopia, Sudan and Uganda.
The interventional strategy undertaken by ALLPI in supporting capacity related to equipment and skills development has had a magnanimous outcome with more than 500 SMEs and business plan development for the centres established. This result has led to improved productivity of the SMEs from two to three pairs of foot-wear per day per person. The aim is to push Africa’s average up to six or seven pairs per person per day. However, with the recently launched ALLPI strategic plan, the institution is realigning itself to the CFTA set targets under the AUC industrial pillar. It is envisaged that, through implementation of ALLPI’s plans, the institution will build the technical capacity (including workforce skills, technology transfer, tools and equipment) to help the SMEs attain, by 2030, 12 to 15 pairs per person per day. It is anticipated that once this threshold is reached, the SMEs will be operating beyond the breakeven point and become sustainable, while meeting the expectation of the continent’s footwear demand.
SME footwear and leather goods clusters and incubators in Malawi, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Uganda, Sudan, Ethiopia, DRC and Eswatini are supported with critically needed tools and equipment, facilitated by ALLPI through the EU-RISM project and Technology Development Board CSR fund. This intervention (in addition to skills training of more than 500 SMEs and business plan development for the centre) has led to improved productivity of the SMEs from two pairs of footwear per day per person to three. ALLPI is also finalising the capacitation of an additional six clusters in six different countries under the US$400 000 BADEA project.
As part of greening the leather sector, ALLPI successfully implemented a UN Development Programme-financed project in Kenya that resulted in a decline in environmental pollution through reduction, reuse and recycling of waste. Tannery technicians in Kenya and Uganda were trained in tanning clinics, while effluent-treatment plant designs were completed for Uganda, Sudan, Rwanda and Eritrea.
ALLPI’s commitment to quality and ensuring annually audited certification has also ascertained environment sustainability in conformity to the QMS ISO 9001:2015 and EMS 14001:2015, which covers the 2018/19 period.
In conjunction with this initiative, ALLPI has undertaken an export-readiness programme for its SMEs in selected countries, coupled with training under EU support to create awareness of REACH compliance in order to enable entry into the lucrative EU market.
To address the long-standing weakness in product development, design and fashion forecast in the leather sector, ALLPI has also embarked on an ambitious flag ship project, called Regional Design Studio, with satellite studios in six member countries, where design and export-readiness training is provided for more than 100 SMEs. Development of design capacity is expected to enhance the exportability and competitiveness of the continent’s leather sector.
ALLPI’s reflections on its progress and the road ahead in achieving its objectives are informed by interaction and collaboration with stakeholders from the triple helix at the annual consultative forum. Held in Sudan, in December, the 2018 theme was Focusing on Innovation to Transform Africa’s Leather Sector towards Productivity and Competitiveness. Feedback from participants showed that the forum was a resounding success.
Furthermore, after the forum, the Ege University extended an invite to the academic platform of ALLPI, which encompasses universities engaged with various disciplines related to the leather sector.
These include Makerere Business School and Kymbogo University (Uganda); Dedan Kimathi University (Kenya); Bahirdar University (Ethiopia); Copperstone University (Zambia); National University of Science and Technology (Zimbabwe); Sudan Science and Technology University, Sudan Technological University and the University of Bahri (Sudan).
ALLPI also occupies a pivotal place in continental and global forums that deal with the leather sector. It serves as a specialised institute for the leather sector in the AU Commodity Strategy development; partners in the organisation of the All-African Leather Fair; and serves
as vice president in the International Council of Tanners.
In addition, ALLPI is organising the International Union of Leather Technologists and Chemists Society 2021 Congress (IULTCS 2021) in Addis Ababa, and the World Leather 2022 Congress (WLC 2022) in Nairobi – both will be held and hosted in Africa for the first time.