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Currently exporting 70% of its raw hides, Mauritius seeks to develop its leather sector by boosting local footwear production and adding value to its products.
Following the two-day workshop “Leather Strategy for Mauritius”, held in Port Louis, Mauritius, on April 11-12, a draft strategy is to be submitted in May, followed by a validation, launch and implementation. Consultants from the COMESA (Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa), the Africa Leather and Leather Products Institute (ALLPI) took part in the event, along with 40 stakeholders of the leather sector.
Speaking at the event, Soomilduth Bholah, Minister of Business, Enterprise and Cooperatives, underlined the importance of the leather industry to the Mauritian economy and how its potential needs to be explored and new strategies formulated. Bholah said the country’s SMEs can play a key role in leather processing for footwear and garments, among other segments, and that the formulation of a strategy for the leather sector will serve as a roadmap for enhanced value addition, increased productivity, quality improvement and market access.
According to Mekonnen Hailemariam, Institutional Capacity Development and Consultancy Expert, ALLPI, Mauritius has only one tannery, which is operating at 20% capacity due to the lack of materials (around 70% of the raw hides are exported), meaning the country is a big importer of footwear and other products; in monetary terms, the total value of imports was generally three times higher than exports in the 2012-2016 period.
The footwear market in Mauritius is estimated at 1.1 million pairs a year. “If these shoes were made locally, this would generate 1,841 jobs, and trigger a demand for leather, soles, glues and other accessories, which would also create more jobs”, Hailemariam told local media. “Mauritius is known for its good governance and has grown considerably from a low-income agricultural economy to a middle-income economy with growing industrial, financial and tourism sectors. This environment has attracted hundreds of thousands of foreign investments.”, he added.