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Mombasa, Kenya, Monday, 9 May 2016: The COMESA Leather and Leather Products Institute in collaboration with the Commonwealth Secretariat have launched the Regional Design Studio project that will influence productivity and marketability of African products at the global level.

The launch was conducted during an awareness raising and capacity building workshop that began today in Mombasa, Kenya. Besides the launch, the workshop will create awareness on the importance of product development, standardization, branding, and packaging and information dissemination.

COMESA Secretary General Sindiso Ngwenya, who was one of the key speakers at the opening of the workshop, said the Design Studio would contribute immensely in the production of market driven value added products, which would assist the region to promote both intra and international trade.

“Most SMEs in the region lack basic design skills and as such, have no software and hardware infrastructure to support product development through designing,” Mr Ngwenya observed. “The result is that production process is based on rudimentary copying of other brands, that impact on them producing substandard products.”

He said the setting up of a Design Studio would close this gap, and empower the small and medium enterprises (SMEs) to manufacture leather footwear and goods of the highest quality, which would be able to penetrate regional and international premium markets.

“The project has the potential of transforming the Leather Value Chain in the COMESA Region and bring it at par with global leaders whilst, for the first time, exposing our top notch designers and producers in Africa to the elite in the leather sector,” the Secretary General said.

Africa holds great potential in developing the sector, on both the supply and demand side of the leather value chain with approximately 26% of the global livestock population and footwear consumption estimated at between 878 million to 1.1 billion pairs per annum.