EAST African Community (EAC) Leather Industry Network Platform (LIN-East Africa) is due for launching today.
LIN-East Africa offers leather stakeholders a reliable virtual space to connect, interact and transact business.
Equally, it serves as a one-stop shop for information on the sector, including facts and statistics, as well as other quantitative measures for assessing, comparing and tracking performance and production.
The trade in leather and leather products in the EAC has enormous potential and is growing at an annual average rate of 1.5 per cent targeting among other things, to boost the trade among EAC member states.
The Director of the Centre for Business Innovation & Training (CBiT), Ms Beatrice Mwasi had this to say on the issue: "This information is necessary in shaping the industry's policy direction as well as disseminating market information that is key to improving industry processes to better meet the needs of customers.
"More importantly, for the first time, the platform offers an easy-to-use interface that helps industry players to build and manage their business portfolios.
The interface also allows consumers to connect conveniently with other market players in the regional leather sector, including manufacturers, agents and the government, thus eliminating unnecessary intermediaries."
She further said the benefits make the LIN-East Africa platform the ultimate gateway to the East African leather sector and an effective tool for boosting trade in leather and leather products.
Leather is the most traded agro-based commodity in the world, with an annual market value of about $200bn.
This is higher than the revenues generated from coffee, tea, rice, rubber, cotton and sugar combined.
The East African leather industry represents about 0.24 percent of the $200bn global market value, with annual revenues of $478m comprising $106.4m in wet blue and $372m in finished leather.
The industry's share of the global market for leather contributes a modest 0.28 percent of the EAC's GDP and is in decline, according to the EAC Leather and Leather Products Strategy and Implementation Roadmap for 2020-2030.
"This negative trend does not reflect the true potential in the sector, as resources such as the region's large population of cows, sheep and goats - estimated by the East African Community Secretariat at 150 million animals in 2013 - are abundant, renewable and readily available.
And because the sector is labor-intensive, it has the potential to employ millions of people at various stages in the supply chain," said Ms Mwasi.
However, the sector is lacking value because of several factors, among them a weak policy environment that discourages investment in value-added products, such as footwear and leather goods, continued exports of critical raw materials, such as hides and skins, and wet blue leather, and weak institutional arrangements in enforcing quality and standards in the value chain.
CBiT is a business development consulting and training firm that works to equip economic actors in Eastern Africa with the knowledge and skills necessary to transform the region into a global economic leader.
To that end, CBiT offers localized, accessible and effective business development solutions delivered to entrepreneurs in Eastern Africa through collaboration with governments, development agencies, and communities around Eastern Africa.
It organizes, designs and implements long-term business development projects, national and regional cluster programmes, incubator projects and technology parks, value-chain analysis and development, capacity building programs, and events such as business training workshops, summits, and conferences.
CBiT mobilizes local economic actors to advance breakthrough knowledge and skills towards transformational and sustainable development.
This approach is informed by the belief that by bringing stakeholders together in creative and constructive ways we succeed in turning the momentum of ideas into focused and sustainable development action.