The government says it has received 10 applications from investors interested in setting up factories and tanneries at the proposed 500-acre Leather Industrial Park (LIP) at Kinanie in Machakos County.
Speaking at a stakeholders briefing Wednesday, Principal Secretary Dr Julius Korir said that they were currently being processed before those shortlisted are allocated parcels of land for construction of factories at the multi-billion shilling park.
Dr Korir indicated that players already in the leather subsector would be given first priority to set up shop at the facility currently being managed by the Export Promotion Zones Authority (EPZA).
The industrial park, set to be in Athi River, will be 35 kilometres from the capital Nairobi and 17 kilometres off the Nairobi-Mombasa highway.
To fast-track uptake and ease doing business, all architectural plans as well as approvals for environmental impact assessment and vetting of standards will be conducted on site.
This is expected to convenience investors with a one-stop shop for all statutory regulations that will precede setting up of leather plants
Earlier, the National Environmental Management Authority (NEMA) had raised issue with the project’s magnitude saying River Athi would suffer massive pollution with the area around the park witnessing unplanned development of shanties which could further adversely affect the water source used by Athi River residents.
To allay NEMA's fears that effluent from tanneries could further pollute River Athi, Industrialisation CS Adan Mohamed said a multiagency team had been formed to supervise all construction activities at the leather park to ensure environmental concerns are addressed.
EPZA on its part says it will oversee treatment works once the projects is up and running to ensure all water discharged into River Athi will be fit for human consumption via use of modern treatment ponds.
Mr Mohamed added that once established at the facility, companies would also enjoy a 20 per cent tax-free incentive to sell their wares locally, thereby giving Kenyans and other members of the East African Community access to newly made and genuine leather products at attractive rates.
Substandard leather products
According to Mr Mohamed, a leather policy to help set standards in the industry and block importation of synthetic products sold to unsuspecting buyers is already being formulated.
The Kenya Leather Development Council chairman Titus Ibui said a Leather Inspectorate had been formed to vet all products entering the country at ports and border entry points to keep substandard leather goods off the market.
The Inspectorate will also be tasked with ensuring all products exported to overseas markets meet a set required standard that will make Kenyan leather products attractive.
Kenya supplies 20 per cent of treated skins and hides to foreign factories but imports costly finished products to into its markets.
With availability of raw materials, it is hoped that the project could unlock the slumbering leather industry as local expertise is thought to be widely available with many young people innovating various products from leather.
The facility in Machakos has been subdivided into one and five hectare plots with land set aside for 15 tanneries, treatment ponds on the lower side as well as space for 200 leather factories and another 200 showrooms for the sale of finished products.