East African region should green its leather and textile sectors in order to boost exports, says a report released on Wednesday by the International Trade Center (ITC), a joint agency of the World Trade Organization and the United Nations.
According to the report, these sectors are among the most polluting and have a negative effect on the local environmental quality, especially water resources.
"The international and textile value chains are making concerted efforts towards going green and reducing their ecological footprint," says the report that was jointly produced by the Kenya Association of Manufacturers (KAM).
The ITC said that most of this change towards environmental sustainability is being driven by large global fashion brands, which require the players in their supply chains to adhere to internationally agreed standards on wastewater and chemical management.
"For East African businesses, being unable to comply with these standards creates a risk of being left out of global supply chains and represents a high cost in missed export market opportunities," the report says.
The findings indicate that textile and leather are promising sectors in East Africa due to their potential in generating employment, spurring innovation and economic growth and promoting exports.
The report notes that these sectors have also been prioritized by most governments in the region, in their industrial blueprints, as vehicles on the road to higher incomes.
The UN body says that despite the presence of comprehensive global standards and best practices, an understanding of the necessary steps towards compliance is lacking in East Africa.
The report notes that local policy makers, enforcement authorities and manufacturers find it difficult to align local legislation with international standards due to this information asymmetry.