The East African Community (EAC) Leather Forum has urged the bloc to begin creating a readily accessible market for leather products. The forum has called for the EAC to fast track the implementation of their Regional Leather Strategy.

The forum, convened by the East African Business Council (EABC), brought together over 40 leather industry champions from Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda.

The forum recommended the creation of a readily accessible regional market for leather products and a conducive business environment to promote regional value addition in the leather sector.

Despite owning about 15% of the world's cattle population, Africa accounts for only 8% of the world’s production of cattle hides and just 4% of the world’s leather production.

Speaking at the opening session, Mr Christophe Bazivamo, EAC Deputy Secretary General (Productive and Social Sectors), said the EAC Secretariat and the Partner States have prioritised the development of the Leather Sector Value Chain for job creation and as a means of providing affordable, new and quality options for leather products to the citizens.

Beatrice Mwasi, secretary general of Kenya Leather Apex Society, urged the EAC leather industry to be more innovative, improve branding and urged the partner states to offer added incentives for value addition in the sector.

Among the challenges the leather sector faces includes the lack of defined standards, poor quality infrastructure of tanneries and abattoirs, illicit trade, the insufficient supply of chemicals, equipment and accessories used in leather, import levy on leather inports by some of the partner states, policy incoherence and the uncontrolled imports of leather.