President Yoweri Museveni commissioned Kawumu Tannery Uganda – a factory processing leather from hides and skins – in Luwero district on Friday (October 7).
While launching the factory, Museveni said for years, he has been having a war with importation of goods, citing it as one of the reasons he decided to set up a tannery factory in Kawumu.
“The previous governments were used to importing everything. That is the problem with Africans. They even import dead people’s hair. Even that takes our money.”
“Leather is imported, papers are also imported,” said the President.
“When we came to Kampala, the milk which was consumed was from Denmark. I was like, ‘Why don’t we use the Balaalo [cattle farmers] to get us milk from cows and we make products out it?’ That is how we stopped milk importation. We also started manufacturing beer, soda, etc. from here. The war we have been fighting of late is importation.”
Uganda is among the top four exporters of hides and skins from Africa, but barely earns $50m (sh191b) from the process.
“The problem with importation is that those products are costly. After adding value to hides and skins they get from us, the Italians will export leather at a higher price,” said Museveni.
“We also give out our employment opportunities through importation. Now that we are done with leather importation, our next war is on papers. I don’t want us to import papers.”
The President also preached wealth and job creation.
“Development is for us all, fighting poverty starts with you [families]. I want development to move along with wealth creation. Listen to what NRM is preaching. I’m not a man of propaganda, I want you to fight poverty and create wealth. If you can’t create wealth, you can’t create jobs,” he said.
He added: “Kawumu Presidential Demonstration Farm employs 27 people. Just imagine if we had more 1,000 farms like that. How many jobs would be created?”
Prime Minister Robinah Nabbanja hailed Museveni’s push for socio-economic transformation of Uganda through industrialisation.
“I laugh at those who don’t support Mzee because there are a few people who have his experience,” she said.
“He has developed Uganda because of his experience and exceptional leadership skills.”
The Minister of State for Trade, Industry and Cooperatives, David Bahati, said the President has fulfilled his promise on solving the issue of leather.
“This factory is an important step in solving the problem of leather especially for the small-scale enterprises that have been suffering to import it,” he said.
“We want to thank you, Your Excellency, for your visionary leadership and we want to thank the State House Comptroller for executing the project.” Bahati said the progress “we are making in this country as far as industrialisation is concerned is very huge” and that “all this would not be possible if it was not for your [Museveni’s good leadership”.
“We are now able to use our own resources to solve our problems.”
The minister said Uganda should protect its local companies by putting more taxes on imported goods.
State House Comptroller Jane Barekye said the entire project, whose construction was started in 2020, cost sh12b upon completion.
Kawumu Tannery Uganda sits on 10 acres of land.
Barekye said that the East African Community, to which Uganda can sell its leather products free of duties, has an annual demand of some $600m (sh2.3 trillion). “We are now ready to tap into that big market,” she said.
“We have succeeded in adding value to animal hides and skins. One kilogramme of hides goes for 50 cents. When we add value, it generates $2 (sh7,600).
Barekye said they are in final plans to construct a shoemaking factory that will be using leather from the tannery.
“In two months’ time we have employed 90 workers and from these, 50 are permanent workers. In three months to come, we shall be producing 10 tonnes of leather per day. That means we are going to double the number of employees. And both factories shall employ over 1,000 workers,” she said.
The leather from the Kawumu tannery can be used to make shoes, belts, handbags, carpets, wallets, among other products.