“It will offer leather stakeholders a reliable virtual space to connect, interact and transact business. The platform will serve as a one-stop shop for information on the sector, including facts and statistics, as well as other quantitative measures for assessing, comparing and tracking performance and production,” she said.

Mwasi also said the platform will allow consumers to connect conveniently with other market players in the regional leather sector, including manufacturers, agents and the government. This will eliminate unnecessary intermediaries.

“This information is necessary in shaping the industry’s policy direction as well as disseminating market information that is key to improving industry processes so as to better meet the needs of customers,” she said.

According to the EAC Leather and Leather Products Strategy and Implementation Roadmap for 2020-2030, the East African leather industry represents about 0.24% of the $200b USD global market value. The report showed that leather is the most traded agro-based commodity in the world, with an annual market value of about $200b USD.

“This is higher than the revenues generated from coffee, tea, rice, rubber, cotton and sugar combined. The industry’s share of the global market for leather contributes a modest 0.28 percent of the East African Community’s GDP and is in decline,” it stated.

Mwasi said the negative trend does not reflect the true potential in the sector, as resources such as the region’s large population of cows, sheep and goats – estimated by the East African Community Secretariat at 150 million animals in 2013 – are abundant, renewable and readily available. She pointed out challenges faced by the sector including weak policy environment that discourages investment in value-added products such as footwear and leather goods. This is in addition to continued exports of critical raw materials, such as hides and skins, and wet blue leather, as well as weak institutional arrangements in enforcing quality and standards in the value chain.