19 October, 2019 - 23 October, 2019
High Point, North Carolina, U.S.
23 October, 2019 - 25 October, 2019
29 October, 2019 - 31 October, 2019
Buenos Aires, Argentina
31 October, 2019 - 02 November, 2019
01 November, 2019 - 03 November, 2019
Opening ceremonies at trade fairs are boring. Necessary, perhaps, but boring. They are an opportunity to get dignitaries to acknowledge the existence of your industry and for some press worthy photos. Hopefully a bit of industry enthusiasm rubs off on them.
I sat through one last Thursday in Addis Ababa and both the country’s President and Minister for Industry turned up and both made good speeches showing that they knew about the industry and its role in pushing the Ethiopian economy forward. The Minister of Industry clearly keeps himself very much in touch with the detail of industrial development and understands the leather industry, which is remarkable in itself. There is no evidence of these Ministers using their offices for self enrichment. For all the difficulties of East Africa everything I have seen of Ethiopia in recent years is about Ministers who are straightforward and exceptionally hard working servants of their country.
And leather is important not just in Ethiopia but in all of Africa. In rough terms Africa has 17% of the world’s leather making raw material with just 3% of its leather industry, essentially continuing to export raw or part processed. Apart from the Maghreb region in the north and a bit in South Africa not much is happening.
So at an opening ceremony such as last Thursday’s it was time to shout out loud and clear to the very large audience from Ethiopia and overseas that was in the audience. What are the salient points missed that the industry must hear:
Ethiopia has never been conquered. It has a long proud past. It is not a country to be exploited but one to work with to mutual benefit. Its population has nearly reached 100 million and is growing fast. In the 20th century I travelled there and despaired for its future. One week to observe what has been written and said about the last few years has flipped this. This is the century for Africa and Ethiopia is leading the charge. I'm a fan.
Follow Mike Redwood on twitter: @michaelredwood