Rwanda’s leather industry is going to boom soon as a result of new machines that are going to process hides and skins. And of course, when one sector of the economy booms, the whole country benefits in one form or another. Rwanda Leather Industries, the company behind the importing of these machines, expects to start exporting leather products by March, to the tune of 35,000 assorted pieces a month.
Many pundits have argued that what is keeping Africa shackled down in poverty, and getting discouragingly low prices in exchange for its products from international markets, is because it exports them raw. Either because of poverty or mismanagement and bad governance, or both, African countries cannot buy the required machines to set up factories that can process their raw products so that they are exported when a lot of value has been added.
The list of raw products that come from Africa’s green fields is very long: coffee, tea, maize, pyrethrum, bananas, potatoes, more grains etc ad infinitum. Even animal products – the best we can do is to slaughter the animals and consume the meat locally, so that some even goes bad because we lack proper storage facilities for the one that goes overnight without getting sold.
Yet the countries where these products go refine them and then resale at stupendous prices, sometimes exporting back to the countries of origin and making them pay five times more than they purchased – simply because they processed the products.
Getting machines that will add value to out produce is one thing the government is pursuing with zeal, and it is good that the programme is beginning to bear fruit. People should form cooperatives so that credit facilities are extended to them to buy machines for pressing fruits to pack juice, process our grains, and add value so that we earn respectable incomes from our sweat.
The leather industry is lucky to get such a boost, and should just make sure that the machines are maximally used, even if it means importing the hides from neighbouring countries to feed their factories.