Over the past years Uganda has experienced significant growth as an economy. The country’s economy has been growing by 7% up to 2018, benefiting from growing commodity exports.
The sectors mainly contributing to the growth of the economy include Agriculture, Services and manufacturing. Leather sub-sector in Uganda has experienced a sluggish growth yet, the country has a growing number of animals including cattle (14 million), goats and sheep (20 million)(Kiraye et al., 2018), and other ruminants. Approximately 95% of the Ugandan processed hides and skins are exported as partially processed leather (wet blue)(UIA, 2017; ULVCS, 2015). Prior to 2008, 90% of the hides and skins were exported as raw materials(NLLPP, 2015). In line with the Uganda Vision 2040, NDP II, the National Leather and Leather Products Policy 2015, the Leather Value Chain Strategy 2015-2025 and Agriculture Sector Development Strategic, the Government has been promoting value addition and exports. The EAC Heads of State Summit has also emphasized value addition, specifically on leather value chain. The Africa Leather and Leather products Institute in their new Strategic Plan have emphasized promoting and strengthening growth of the regional leather value chain.
Uganda’s leather industry is still in its infancy stage of development characterized by poor production equipment and limited value addition. The exported hides and skins from Uganda are usually in their raw and semi-processed forms. Over 90% of leather products are imported from outside Africa, despite the huge potential in the Common Market for Eastern and Southern African region. Of the 25 million pairs of shoes annually demanded in Uganda, one million are produced locally and the 24 million are imported mainly from Europe, North America and Asia. Out of the total import of shoes, only about 500,000 pairs are leather shoes. Despite this potential, most of the finished leather products are imported into the country from Asia, European Union and North America.
Value addition up to the finished leather is a desired goal for Uganda and the region at large. However, the processing of leather is very polluting and causes harmful impacts both on the environment and human health. A deep analysis to identify the needs and constraints of the leather sector has shown that the core of the problem is that the leather industry in the country is dominated by SMEs with critical lack of expertise and skillswith capacity to respond to environmental problems. This eventually affects their competitiveness in international markets, where sustainability has become an important prerequisite for the business viability. This requires capacity building, research, innovation and adaptation of inclusive approaches that can offer practical solutions to address social, economic and environmental challenges while creating employment and sustaining economic growth.
On this background, Kyambogo University in collaboration with Ministry of Trade, Industry and Cooperatives Uganda, Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovations, Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries, Ministry of Education and Sports and Africa Leather and Leather Products Institute is planning to host the first Academic and Practical Skills Inter-university Show for Africa Leather and leather products from 7th to 9th August 2019, in Kampala Uganda.