The research will cover infrastructure, effluent treatment, a training centre and buildings for the production of wet-blue, retanned and finished leather. This comes after a study carried out by the LEA which established that Botswana’s leather industry is highly under developed despite the country’s huge number of hides and skins and a well established cattle industry.

LEA research manager, Dynah Solani indicated that the leather industry needs to be developed as it currently imports more than it exports.

‘In a bid to promote the growth of the industry, LEA has also intensified its business development services at the leather incubation centre in Gaborone through engagements of technical experts,’ she said.

The total cattle population stands at 2.5 million in 2010 with annual slaughter figures of 10% of the national herd or around 250,000 hides per annum. Solani explained that the research shows that micro-artisan tanners who are mostly engaged in vegetable tanning dominate the local processing of leather and these artisan tanners process hides and skins mainly from ceremonial slaughters and local butchers. ‘There was only one leather finishing plant in the country which imported all its raw material of wet-blues and tanning chemicals,’ she said. She added that almost all collected hides and skins in Botswana are destined for the export market through the Botswana Meat Commission (BMC).

‘This is mainly caused by lack of a primarily processing leather plant locally.’

Currently the main export markets for Botswana’s raw hides and skins are South Africa, Namibia and China.