A delegation from Indian companies involved in the leather sector are in the country to scout for opportunities in the largely untapped sector.
According to the Industrialization Principal Secretary (PS), Betty Maina, the leather sector in Kenya contributes 0.3 percent to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and the partnership with India will be looking at improving the sector’s output.
Speaking on Wednesday during a forum to discuss the investment and trade opportunities between Kenya and India, Maina said that the focus is to increase leather, textile and apparel and the government feels it can collaborate with India to reduce the trade imbalance which is skewed in favour of India.
She highlighted that Principal Secretaries (PSs) will soon be having a workshop aimed at coming up with policies on the revitalization of manufacturing with leather and footwear being some of the priority areas.
She explained that Kenya has restricted the exportation of raw hides so that it can ensure availability of raw material for the leather industry and so far they have seen the success of that initiative.
“Most of the footwear coming into the country is second hand and the government is planning to slowly face out the importation of second hand footwear and cloths so that it can create market for local leather and textile industries,” said Maina.
The PS said that the government is also creating market for local leather industry by ensuring that all footwear for the disciplined forces and the police is exclusively bought from local manufacturers.
“Since we know you are here for a short time and it will be hectic to source for land and build your own structures, we have identified ready go downs and other business facilities which are ready for your occupation. We will take you round so that you can see and choose for yourself,” explained the PS.
The KenInvest Managing Director, Dr. Moses Ikiara said that the leather sector has a huge potential with available market in Kenya and the region since Kenya is a signatory of the Eastern Africa Community (EAC), Common Market for East and Southern Africa (COMESA) and the recently signed African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).
“For the last 10-15 years, the Kenyan economy has been growing at an average 5.6 percent which is quite strong compared to the African average of less than three percent and as a country we are targeting a double digit growth with leather targeted to contribute to this growth,” highlighted Ikiara.
The India Council of Leather exports Chairman, Aqeel Ahmed Panaruna said that this is the right time for India to invest in Kenya’s leather industry since if they don’t do it soon enough they might lose the market.
“We have a delegation of 14 new companies who have come to scout for investment opportunities here in Kenya and an additional three companies which were here last year,” explained Panaruma.
He added that the investors are very impressed by the developments in the country all the way from the airport to the city and in the hospitality sector with some expressing their shock that a developing country can have such facilities.
“There are a lot of opportunities here and it is a gold mine, we know what exactly to invest in and am sure some of the companies here today will invest in Kenya,” said Panaruma.
By Joseph Ng’ang’a