Nigerian vice president Yemi Osinbajo announced the country’s National Leather and Leather Products Policy Implementation Plan in a speech last week.
Osinbajo said Nigeria is one of the highest producers of leather and finished leather products in Africa. A study carried out by the Nigerian Economic Summit Group projected that the Nigerian leather industry has the potential to generate more than $1 billion by 2025. He noted that the leather and leather products industry itself currently employs over 750,000 workers, with about 500,000 workers in the finished leather goods sector.
There are about 11 leather exporting companies that have been active at the upstream end of the leather value chain. Together, these companies generate about 8,000 jobs, and the export of leather has grown steadily reaching a peak of about $117 million in 2018 but exports fell in 2020 largely due to the pandemic. To date, however, exports are somewhere in the order of $272 million, Osinbajo said.
“Nigeria’s semi-finished and finished leather have their highest patronage in several countries of the world–Italy, Spain, India, South Asia and China, and the markets in shoes, belts, bags, and folders are all over West Africa and many parts of Africa,” he said. “Some of the evidence we gathered suggests that the famous Aba shoe cluster in Abia State informally exports almost a million pairs of shoes every week mostly to destinations within Africa.”
“The industry is huge, but its potential can only be imagined,” Obinbajo added. “So, there is no question that properly organized, the leather and leather products industry could become one of the major items in Nigeria’s export basket. There is clearly enormous potential for even greater job opportunities and much higher export proceeds.”
He noted that the Nigeria Economic Summit Group (NESG) has projected the Nigerian leather industry has the potential to increase its earnings 70 percent in the next couple of years. With the National Leather and Leather Products Policy Implementation Plan, the country has an opportunity to address the specific challenges and shortcomings of the leather sector with pragmatic strategies to permanently resolve some of these issues for optimal productivity.
“In particular, there is now a clear line of sight to our emergence as a major hub in Africa for the manufacture of leather goods with the refocusing of the leather sector to value addition from its previous focus on exporting semi-processed leather,” Osinbajo said. “And a major part of that effort is in improving credit access to leader product manufacturers. This plan provides an opportunity to develop a credit guarantee scheme along the line very successful agricultural guarantee scheme.”
In addition, he said Nigeria’s special economic zones project already highlights product manufacturing as a major focus. The plan covers eight thematic areas that include intellectual property rights, governance, e-leather, environmental and social best practices, marketing, funding, critical infrastructure and research and development.
“The plan is as all-encompassing as it is detailed and relevant MDAs, NGOs and the organized private sector are already assigned specific responsibilities for the various objectives and strategies of the plan,” Osinbajo said.
A central feature of the plan is the development of technical capacity in leather works and technology. The Nigerian Institute of Leather Science and Technology has established nine extension centers across the six geo-political zones of Nigeria. These centers are already operational with well-built workshops, laboratories and exhibition showrooms to train and develop young entrepreneurs in Nigeria as well as provide innovative research and development in processing, giving capacity to train and conversion of hides, skins, and polymers into leather and leather products of a global standard for export.