Since a large proportion of Ugandans choose imported leather products rather than domestic products, which are perceived as lower in quality, pressure is mounting to construct adequate facilities to process hides and skins into leather in order to expand the leather industry in Uganda, says Emmanuel Mwebe, coordinator of the Uganda leather and Allied Industries Association.
According to Mwebe, Uganda has seven medium-sized tanneries and several small ones up to wet-blue level, but no factory to process hides and skins into products. So a factory would boost leather production and employment.
To compound the problem, the absence of a leather factory has also accelerated cheap and synthetic imports. In comparison in Ethiopia, leather factories have opened footwear shops to enable the country have an impact in regional markets, says Mwebe.
It's estimated that Ugandans buy 25 million pairs of shoes every year of which only one million are produced in the country. But considering abundant resources, the Uganda Bureau of Statistics show it has potential to produce 1.4 million cattle hides, 3.1 million goatskins and nearly 700,000 sheepskins annually. Current collection rates are at 1.2 million, 2.4 million and 540,000 respectively.
Out of the five major tanning industries, only Jinja-based Leather Industries of Uganda processes hides and skins up to the finished product stage. The other four tanneries; Skyfat Tanneries, Novelty Investment, Jambo Tannery and Gomba Fish Skins Industry, only process hides and skins to wet blue for export.