Advancing the Competitiveness of Ethiopia's Hides,
Skins and Leather Industry

Since 2006, ECG has been involved in the implementation of USAID's Ethiopia Agribusiness and Trade Expansion Activity.

Challenge: Although Ethiopia's economy is built on agriculture well developed agricultural supply and value chains are lacking and market linkages are often disorganized. Consequently Ethiopia has experienced large structural deficits in its food supplies, requiring substantial emergency aid to fill the gap. The weak performance of agricultural markets in Ethiopia was recognized as a major impediment to growth in the agricultural sector and the overall economy.

The U.S. Agency for International Development sought to increase the rate of economic growth in Ethiopia while reducing poverty and increasing availability of and access to food. Achieving these goals would require increasing the productivity of Ethiopia's human, capital and natural resources as well as enhancing market efficiency and competitiveness.

Solution: ECG designed and implemented one of the first comprehensive competitiveness initiatives in Eastern Africa. The objective was to identify market opportunities and to stimulate market-led agro-enterprise and cooperative linkages with domestic, regional and international markets to significantly improve the export performance of Ethiopia's key economic sectors.

ECG assembled a working group of 50 top leaders from industry, academia and government associated with the hides, skins and leather sector and based on analysis and their own first-hand knowledge, worked with these stakeholders to identify the myriad of critical issues faced by the industry and put them in priority order. ECG worked with stakeholders to prepare plans for action initiatives designed to address the issues.

Results: Several "fast-track" initiatives were launched in the first few months of the effort, others over the first three years. All are showing promise and many, after transfer to the Ethiopian Leather Industries Association with assistance of ECG, are continuing under non-donor funding. As a result, the Ethiopian hides, skins and leather cluster has become increasingly vibrant as cluster participation grows, new initiatives are launched and the industry sees concrete results from their efforts.

One of the highest visibility action initiatives of the cluster's working group was the launch of the Taytu "Made in Ethiopia-" branded leather bags and accessories. With ECG's assistance, 12 independent leather garment and textile manufacturers formed a strategic alliance designed to bring former competitors together to work collaboratively. ECG provided the Taytu consortium with cluster leadership, management and marketing support, while UNIDO provided technical assistance. Taytu's product sales soured after product introductions in Milan, Paris, New York and Los Angeles.

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