Tanzania’s leather sector hosts the second (2nd) largest livestock population in Africa after Ethiopia. Hides, skins and leather processing is therefore a fundamental sub-sector within the larger livestock sector, and is considered to have great potential to contribute towards economic development of Tanzania. Annual production of raw hide stands at 3.4 million hides, 2 million sheep and 4.4 million goat skins, with an estimated off-take rate of 10-15% for cattle, 28% for goats and 29% for sheep. The raw material ‘potential’ is exceeded by the combined installed annual capacity of 124,420,000 square feet of leather and approximately 2 million pairs of shoes. This figure highlights Tanzania’s outsized reliance on imported new and second hand leather footwear which are traded at much lower prices than similar locally produced goods. Tanzania’s demand for finished footwear is estimated at 36 million pairs with effective demand of approximately 14.4 million pairs. This situation is mirrored across the leather sector in general to include all leather goods.
The country’s tanning industry processes up to wet blue (semi-processed) stage as production of finished leather is partly constrained by suppressed demand of finished leather occasioned by the under-developed footwear and leather-goods industry, and stiff competition from imports. This however presents an immense opportunity in finished leather tanning, domestically oriented footwear and leather goods industry manufacturing.
Tanzanian exports of leather products remain very small in comparison to its livestock population. Exports from the leather sector have been fluctuating between US $ 7 million and US $ 21 million over the last decade. As a whole, the United Republic of Tanzania ranks fourteenth in Africa for H&S, ahead of Botswana but behind Kenya. For articles of leather, Tanzania ranks seventeenth, and twelfth for footwear.
Mainland China is the largest export market for Tanzania’s exports of hides and skins, followed by Hong Kong (China) that represent the country’s second-largest export destination. Exports to India and Italy have also shown phenomenal growth.