Second-hand footwear could face stiffer tariffs in new government efforts to revive the embattled leather industry.

‘All unfair trade practices will be rooted out to ensure that locally manufactured footwear dominates the market’, said trade and industry minister Mukhisa Kituyi.

The leather industry, he said, was capable of accelerating economic growth by creating more jobs.

It earns the country some Sh7.3 billion ($98.3 million) annually, which accounts for nearly 10% of the country’s GDP and employs 155,450 both directly and indirectly.

Its potential, however, has not been fully exploited and was faced with several challenges, including cheap imports.

Dr Kituyi was speaking during a tour of the Bata Shoe factory in Limuru. Challenging firms to be more aggressive in penetrating foreign markets, Dr Kituyi told local entrepreneurs to explore other avenues for investment, including joint ventures, diversification and ensuring their products were of international standards, both in quality and packaging.

‘This is the only way they can tap the large European Union market and take advantage of the United States’ African Growth and Opportunity Act, he said.

Bata managing director Fernando Garcia asked the government to ensure there was a level playing ground for all firms.

‘There is need to increase export duty on raw hides and skins and, if possible, ban it altogether and only allow the export of semi-processed hides and skins.’

He said that due to unfair trade practices, Bata, which at one time employed 3,000 people, now had only 1,200 workers. He urged the East African Community to quickly implement the recently-agreed customs tariffs to ease movement of goods within the region.

Source : Daily ‘Nation’, Nairobi