A few months ago Prof. Mwinyikione Mwinyihija was elected president of the International Council of Tanners (ICT), the spokesperson for the demands of the tanning industry worldwide. Well known and appreciated in the sector, prof. Mwinyihija is a great tanning expert with more than thirty scientific publications and five books to his credit. Over the years he has received numerous awards and honours also for his commitment to the development of the African leather sector of which he is considered the main ambassador.
Africa Leather and Leather Products Institute (ALLPI) of which Mwinyikione Mwinyihija has been executive director since 2013 promotes educational and development projects in ten African countries, from Burundi to Zimbabwe. During his tenure as ICT president, some important events are planned for the leather sector. In November 2021 the 5th World Leather Congress organised by ICT and the 36th IULTCS Congress (Leather Chemists), of which Prof. Mwinyihija is president of the organising committee as host country, will be held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia in rapid succession.
Prof. Mwinyihija kindly agreed to answer some of our questions.
Prof. Mwinyihija, you have just been elected president of ICT. What are the most important goals of your mandate?
“As all we know the COVID-19 has badly affected the leather industry, with tanneries closed, orders cancelled and jobs lost. Compared to 2019, a 30-35% fall in turnover is expected in European Industry, and leather and leather products exports from France, was down as much as 43% for some segments. as air travel has fallen dramatically, the aviation upholstery sector has been very badly affected. Low consumer confidence also impacted the retail of leather goods, cars and other products. Therefore, one of the goal of my mandate will also be to contribute towards making the industry to raise the profile of leather as a sustainable, circular material, challenge the misrepresentation of synthetic materials as leather and address the issues of concern for consumer in relation to leather, such deforestation, animal welfare, chemicals (particularly chromium).
More in general, during the period of my tenure I will continue to build on the ICT strengths, but also take new additional initiatives as follows:
* Increasing the membership basis of ICT by bringing in more major players in hides and skins and leather production (India, Vietnam, Australia and others)
* Revisiting the Statutes of the International Council of Tanners that was last reviewed in 2010
* Looking for other like minded partners taking cognizance of the reduced role of FAO in global leather affairs,
* Continuing to build the image of ICT at regional and global levels to create an enhanced presence on matters of the leather sector, and
* Continuing the ongoing ICT activities with further strengthened momentum, (keeping Statistics regularly updated)
* Strengthening the role of GLCC by taking a more influential position in its operational structure.
The 36th IULTCS Congress will be held next year in Ethiopia and you’re the president of the Organizing Committee. What will be the focus of the event?
“IULTCS Congress is the highest-level platforms in sharing of scientific knowledge and ideas in the leather sector. The 2021 Congress with the theme “Greening the Leather Value Chain” will focus on the following thematic areas: Scientific Researches of leather, Leather chemicals, Cleaner technologies for the leather processing; Composite materials and utilization of leather waste resources; Environmental Management Technologies in leather industry; Novel detection techniques in the processing of leather; Leather industry entrepreneurship and progress towards sustainability; Intelligent manufacturing of leather products; Fashion, life style leather products and design innovations”.
You are executive director of ALLPI. Could you briefly explain to us what this organization is about?
“ALLPI is a specialized, knowledge based Intergovernmental and Chartered institute, mandated for the development of the leather sector in African. ALLPI’s aim is to transform the continent’s leather sector from production and export of raw or semi processed hides & skins to production and export of finished products and enhance the leather sector trade integration regionally and globally. The institute is currently implementing its 10 years (2016-2025) strategic plan with 9 strategic objectives that are aligned to the AU Agenda 2063: pillars 1, 2 and 7 (Prosperous Africa, An integrated continent and a strong and influential global player and partner) and SDG goals 5, 8, 9, 12 and 17 (gender equity, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, sustainable industrialization, sustainable production and consumption and global partnership)”.
The Covid-19 pandemic is hitting hard in Europe and the United States. What’s the situation in Africa?
Similar to what is being observed in different parts of the world, the African leather sector is also badly affected by COVID-19 pandemics. As per an opinion survey conducted by ALLPI in 9 African countries, leather sector enterprises indicated a decrease in trade of hides and skins for up to 80%. The tanning performance of raw hides and skins as well as footwear and leather goods production levels were also indicated as decrease by more than 50%. Imports of inputs were/are also almost halted and tanneries depending on imported chemicals are just closed. The Covid-19 impact in Europe and the United States has also direct impact on the African leather sector as orders from these countries were, almost all, cancelled”.
In Africa the leather industry has a great potential but many obstacles block its further development. What are the main problems?
“Although the leather industry has great potential it has not been a policy priority until recently. The sector is also dominated by SMEs and Artisans that are facing multifaceted challenges that encompass poor quality of raw materials, weak institutional support, poor coordination, inadequate skilled manpower, capital shortages, low levels of technology and market problem”.