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ECA co-organized the first workshop on Ethiopian leather industry, AfCFTA

ECA’s African Trade Policy Centre (ATPC), the Ethiopian Chamber of Commerce and Sectoral Associations (ECCSA), and the Ethiopian Leather Industries Association (ELIA) co-organized the first workshop on “the Ethiopian Leather Industry and the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA): Opportunities and Challenges” at the Hilton Hotel, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on November 21.

The workshop aimed to bring all stakeholders together to discuss the opportunities the AfCFTA presents to the Ethiopian leather industry, appreciate the challenges facing it, and offer a platform for resolving the challenges. It also explored options on how best to position the Ethiopian leather industry to take advantage of the AfCFTA.

Ethiopia has an established leather industry, dating back to the early 20th century. Ethiopia is home to the largest livestock population in Africa that guarantees plentiful supply of raw materials for its leather industry. There are also many businesses operating across different segments of the industry in Ethiopia, both foreign and domestic. The industry has enormous potential to, among others, boost export revenues, create more job opportunities, support women economic empowerment, and contribute to Ethiopia’s overall development.

That Ethiopia is also a State Party to the AfCFTA means that its leather products have access to a large and growing market of over 1.4 billion people, increasingly free of duties and other barriers.

Considering Ethiopia’s potential comparative advantage in the leather industry and the opportunities that the AfCFTA presents to its economy, ECA took the initiative to organize the workshop in collaboration with representatives of the Ethiopian private sector in general (ECCSA) and the leather industry in particular (ELIA). The workshop is a part of ATPC’s pilot project to work directly with the representatives of the private sector to support the AfCFTA Agreement’s successful implementation.

Opening the workshop, Director of ECA’s Regional Integration and Trade Division, Mr. Stephen Karingi, observed that “Ethiopia’s resource endowment, combined with a rich history of producing and supplying processed leather products, gives it a potential competitive advantage to become a successful player on the African single market that will emerge from AfCFTA implementation.”

Representing Ethiopia’s Ministry of Trade and Regional Integration, Lead Executive for International and Regional Trade Integration at the Ministry, Mr. Tages Mulugeta, on his part, remarked that “AfCFTA opens a new era of trade governance in Africa, and it must be viewed as an opportunity to implement necessary structural reforms” and emphasized the significant potential that Ethiopia has in the leather industry.

Representing the Ethiopian private sector, ECCSA President Eng. Melaku Ezezew noted that Ethiopia’s leather industry can become an engine for job creation and economic growth, but it also faces various internal and external challenges, which require coordinated actions of all stakeholders to be resolved.

The workshop also featured a presentation by the Acting Secretary General of ELIA, Mr. Endale Seyfu, on the past, current state, and potential of the leather industry vis-à-vis the opportunities of the AfCFTA, including the Association’s experience in organizing the All-African Leather Fair. He also outlined the challenges that businesses in the industry are facing, including insufficient access to foreign currency and inadequate marketing and promotion. 

Over 40 participants attended the workshop, representing relevant Ethiopian Government agencies, the private sector as well as international organizations (FAO, UNCTAD, and UNIDO) and regional stakeholders (e.g.: the Africa Leather and Leather Products Institute). The participants welcomed the targeted and sector-specific approach taken in the workshop, emphasized the need to ensure this is only the beginning of a series of engagements of this type, and not a one off exercise, and expressed their support to the proposal to explore options for organizing a leather-specific trade fair around the AfCFTA either as a standalone event or as an enhancement to the existing annual All Africa Leather Fair.

Source : Realnews