With the government still grappling with the challenge of dwindling revenues and the quest to diversify its revenue sources away from crude oi, the leather industry has been identified as one of the sources to rely on to sustain growth in the country’s economy.
Nigeria is reputed to be =one of the highest producers of leather and finished leather products in Africa, with a projected revenue of about $1 billion by 2025.
Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, said on Tuesday, the industry could become a game-changer for Nigeria’s economy by improving the country’s foreign exchange earnings, boosting growth, and providing employment for young Nigerians.
Osinbajo made the observation during the formal launch and sensitization workshop on the National Leather and Leather Products Policy Implementation Plan in Abuja.
He said with the right planning and strategy, optimizing the value chain, these goals could become reality soon.
The VP made reference to a study carried out by the Nigerian Economic Summit Group (NESG) which projected that the Nigerian leather industry has the potential of not only increasing its earnings by 70 percent, but also generating over $1billion by 2025.}
“There is no question that if properly organized, the leather and leather products industry could become one of the major items in Nigeria’s export basket,” the Vice President said.
‘‘The leather value chain is extensive. It includes animal husbandry, tanneries, finished leather products, and leather products marketing.
“The leather and leather products industry currently employs over 750,000 workers with about 500,000 workers in the finished leather goods sector.
“About 11 leather exporting companies have been active at the upstream end of the leather value chain.
“Also, the export of leather has grown steadily, reaching a peak of $117 million in 2018. Exports fell in 2020 largely due to the pandemic, but to date, are in the order of $272million,” he added.
Osinbajo said the country was yet to maximize its potential in the sector, despite exporting millions of semi-finished and finished leather products to destinations, including Italy, Spain, India, South Asia and China.
With the formal launch of the National Leather and Leather Products Policy Implementation Plan, the VP said the government now has ‘‘a real opportunity to address specific challenges and shortcomings of the leather sector with pragmatic strategies to permanently resolve these issues for optimal productivity.”
He said there was now a clear line of sight to the country’s emergence as a major hub 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.
Describing the Plan as all encompassing, Osinbajo said relevant government ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs), non-governmental organisations (NGOs), and the organized private sector are assigned specific responsibilities for its various objectives and strategies.
The Plan, the VP said, covers eight thematic areas, including intellectual property rights, governance, E-leather, environmental and social best practices, marketing, funding, critical infrastructure, and research and development.
Commending the initiative of the Nigerian Institute of Leather Science and Technology (NILEST) on the plan, Osinbajo said the establishment of nine extension centres across the country’s six geo-political zones would help to train and develop young entrepreneurs in Nigeria as well as provide innovative research and development in the sector.
Noting the Institute was also collaborating with the military for research, development, design, and production of military footwear, the VP noted that, “the very idea of an implementation plan is refreshingly innovative.”
“It addresses the malignant problem of great plans, but poor delivery that appears to bedevil many policies of government.
“The next steps are clear and the stage is set for establishing the leather and leather products industry in Nigeria on a sure-footed and well thought out growth trajectory,” Osinbajo said.
The Vice President commended the Minister of Science and Technology, Ogbonnaya Onu, and his team for developing the Plan, as well as other relevant government agencies and international bodies, such as the European Union (EU) and the German Society for International Cooperation (GIZ) partnering with the Federall Government in the implementation of the policy.