Leather sec­tor can earn Nige­ria $60b, 700,000 job open­ings-Ex­perts

Business a.m. - - NIGERIA FRONTIER MARKETS - Ja­cob Ajakaiye, in Kano

NIGE­RIA’S IN ABIL­ITY TO FULLY max­imise the for­eign ex­change earn­ings as well as the job cre­ation op­por­tu­ni­ties in the leather sec­tor of the econ­omy is gen­er­at­ing con­cerns among in­dus­try ex­perts who say the sec­tor can earn the coun­try about $60 bil­lion in for­eign ex­change.

The leather in­dus­try which is cur­rently un­der per­form­ing, can be­come the coun­try’s re­li­able for­eign ex­change earner in line with the new di­rec­tion and the on-go­ing ef­forts by the gov­ern­ment to move the coun­try to­wards zero-oil econ­omy. As a way of achiev­ing this goal, the Pres­i­dent Muham­madu Buhari-led ad­min­is­tra­tion launched the Eco­nomic Re­cov­ery and Growth Plan (ERGP), which iden­ti­fied leather as one of the strate­gic non-oil re­sources to be de­vel­oped un­der its eco­nomic di­ver­si­fi­ca­tion pro­gramme.

The north­ern Nige­rian state of Kano is un­doubt­edly the big­gest mar­ket for hide and Skin in West Africa, a com­mod­ity used for the man­u­fac­ture of fin­ished leather prod­ucts, such as shoes, bags, among oth­ers, that are in high de­mand in the coun­try. About 20 mil­lion pairs of shoes are es­ti­mated to be im­ported from coun­tries such as Italy, Ja­pan, and China into Nige­ria yearly, de­spite the na­tion`s tremen­dous com­par­a­tive ad­van­tage in the leather sec­tor.

In­dus­try ex­perts are of the view that Nige­ria has the ca­pac­ity to gen­er­ate #24.5 bil­lion from the Leather sec­tor, as well as cre­ate 700,000 di­rect and in­di­rect jobs an­nu­ally, if the sec­tor is prop­erly man­aged. The com­mer­cial city of Kano is the re­gional hub for leather ac­tiv­i­ties in West Africa, since the ad­vent of the Tran-Sa­ha­ran Trade, and it presently houses quite a num­ber of tan­ner­ies in­volved in the pro­cess­ing of wet blue leather for ex­por­ta­tion. Ex­perts be­lieve gov­ern­ment must at­tract huge in­vest­ment into the sec­tor along the value chain, in­stead of pro­mot­ing the ex­por­ta­tion of raw leather, as it has been the case over the years.

Speak­ing dur­ing a Val­i­da­tion Work­shop on Na­tional Leather and Leather Prod­ucts Pol­icy held re­cently, in Sokoto, North-West Ni- geria, Og­bon­naya Onu, Min­is­ter of Sci­ence and Tech­nol­ogy, de­scribed the leather sec­tor as a gold mine which gov­ern­ment is in­ter­ested in. The Min­is­ter, who was rep­re­sented at the oc­ca­sion by Prof. Okechukwu Ok­wuoma, Direc­tor-Gen­eral, Na­tional Cen­tre for Tech­nol­ogy Man­age­ment, dis­closed that the gov­ern­ment was work­ing to­wards mak­ing Nige­ria a pro­duc­tion hub for fin­ished leather prod­ucts. With a grow­ing pop­u­la­tion of about 198 mil­lion peo­ple, and gate way to many economies in the Sa­hel re­gion of Africa, Nige­ria is a huge mar­ket for fin­ished leather prod­ucts.

Com­ment­ing on the ne­glect of the leather sec­tor at a fo­rum re­cently, Mo­hammed Sa­gagi, an econ­o­mist, who works as a con­sul­tant for UK `aided in­ter­ven­tion pro­gramme- GEMS 1, a scheme im­ple­mented to as­sist Nige­ria de­velop a mar­ket driven so­lu­tions to the ex­plo­ration of its leather po­ten­tial, said Nige­ria needs to quickly move away from be­ing a mono­lithic econ­omy.

“Nige­ria has re­mained a re­source poor coun­try threat­ened by in­sta­bil­ity in crude oil price in the in­ter­na­tional mar­ket. To me this is the time for the gov­ern­ment to in­ten­sify the im­ple­men­ta­tion of the di­ver­si­fi­ca­tion of the econ­omy away from oil.

“As it is to­day, crude oil still con­sti­tutes 20 per­cent of the coun­try `s Gross Do­mes­tic Prod­uct (GDP), and ac­counts for over 80 per­cent of gov­ern­ment’s rev­enue and 90 per­cent of its for­eign ex­change earn­ings” Sa­gagi cau­tioned.

The Paris–based In­ter­na­tional En­ergy Agency (IEA), in its re­cent re­port has also at­tempted to raise aware­ness for the need for eco­nomic di­ver­si­fi­ca­tion in large oil de­pen­dent economies, such as Nige­ria. Leather is a durable and flex­i­ble ma­te­rial cre­ated by the tan­ning of an­i­mal raw hide and skin, of­ten cat­tle and goat hide, which are hugely avail­able in the north­ern part of the coun­try, where live­stock breed­ing is an in­te­grated part of house­hold ac­tiv­i­ties in the re­gion.

The pro­duc­tion of leather un­der goes var­i­ous man­u­fac­tur­ing pro­cesses rang­ing from cot­tage in­dus­try to heavy in­dus­try. The com­mod­ity is used for quite a num­ber of pur­poses, in­clud­ing cloth­ing (shoes, hats, jack­ets, skirts, trousers, and belts). Leather is also used for book­bind­ing, wall­pa­per, and as fur­ni­ture cov­er­ing, among oth­ers.

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