The All Africa Leather Fair, has become an important annual event of the leather sector enterprises and stakeholders in the COMESA region. Annually both regional and international enterprises converge in Addis Ababa to show case the latest leather, footwear, leather goods and technology.
COMESA/LLPI has capitalized over the years on this event to facilitate the participation of SMEs, through a cost sharing arrangement. In addition the COMESA/LLPI has used this platform to hold a review meeting with its countries focal points. A total of 31 participants from 8 COMESA member countries, namely Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Rwanda, Sudan, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe participated in the Workshop.This year the meeting was special as the new Director, Dr M. Mwinyihija also invited SMEs who were drawn from the COMESA region to attend the meeting. This brought a good amount of fresh air, as the SMEs were able to exchange views with focal points in a manner, which is set to impact positively on the performance of COMESA/LLPI and consequently the leather industry in the region. An external perspective was also solicited by inviting an expert on leather exhibition, who is currently working with the Hong Kong Fair organizers (APLF). The Director pointed out that the COMESA region has taken a giant step in supporting the development of SMEs clusters in the leather sector, as most countries in Asia has been able to grow the industry through the implementation of the same strategy.
Dr. Mwinyikione Mwinyihija, the new Director of COMESA/LLPI further in his opening remarks made it clear that COMESA/LLPI’s was ready to deliver on its mandate and was ready to fulfill the expectations of its stakeholders. He stressed that there was a need to unlock the potential that the region holds in the leather value chain. Among other issues he raised during his remarks, he alluded to the fact that SMEs were important in ensuring a rapid and robust growth of the leather sector in the region if they were supported. He promised the participants that the COMESA/LLPI was ready to take up the challenge and would join hands with all relevant stakeholders in this endevour.
Topics discussed during the Workshop encompassed overview and key accomplishments to date of COMESA/LLPI, LLPI’s Leather Trade Information Network Development in the COMESA Region, LLPI’s role in the COMESA Region Leather Value Chain Systems Development, LLPI’s Focus in Future Leather Industry Regional Development/Medium Term Strategic Action Plan and Regional Integration Support Programme/Cluster Management Excellence, with lead discussants being Dr. Tadesse H. Mamo, Mr. Awlachew Sintie, Dr. Mekonnen Hailemariam, Mr. Zewdu Kebede and Mr. Nicholas Mudungwe in that order.
Workshop participants made thorough discussion and deliberations during the Workshop. SMEs representatives said that the Workshop allowed them to expose problems that they are facing and the support they need to effectively participate in national, intra-regional and international trade operations.