Exotic Leather South Africa is a sub-national cluster, responsible for setting of industry standards and benchmarks


Exotic Leather South Africa is a non-profit organisation (sub-national cluster), responsible for developing best practice industry standards and benchmarks to improve the long-term sustainability of the industry. The sub-national cluster’s mandate is to develop information technology systems across the industry stakeholders which will assist industry stakeholders to implement quality control measures to enable participants to meet the required standards of the international luxury goods industry. The developing of standards for resource welfare and implementing a system of accreditation will ensure that the industry will meet national requirements, international best practises and retailer and consumer demands. Further to this, scientific research aimed to improve animal health and production systems will result in improved growth, productivity and skin quality which are bound to have a direct commercial benefit for participating members. Exotic Leather South Africa is supported by the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) which has allocated R51 million over the first three years through the Government’s Competitive Improvement Program.

The cluster will implement, oversee and report on a number of interventions to achieve its mission of sustainable global competitiveness. These interventions would be based on a comprehensive analysis of the industry’s needs and constitute the following as key performance areas:

  • Research-based development and welfare;
  • Skills development;
  • Technology development;
  • Incubation, especially of SMMEs; and
  • Shared resources

Coupled with support from its technology partners and representative industry stakeholders, Exotic Leather South Africa aims to position itself as an authority in the exotic leather luxury market. Competitiveness improvement will be based on quality improvements and on ethical and sustainable trading practices.
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Exotic Leather South Africa is a vertically integrated cluster and has been established for the South African leather industry with a view to overcoming the challenges facing the domestic exotic leather industry and to exploit the opportunities presented by the current growth in the international luxury market.


Exotic Leather South Africa’s mission is to position South Africa on the international exotic leather markets as a research-based, ethical, and sustainable source for exotic leather and exotic leather accessories with a commitment to delivering international best quality.
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  • Enhancing policy impact and policy tool impact by improving the regulated environment for trading in crocodile and ostrich products;
  • Improving efficiency and quality throughout the value chain by developing and implementing international standards and best-practices;
  • Ensuring sustainability of the industry by developing production models based on a resource-efficient “life cycle” production approach across the production value chain;
  • Building supply-chain capacity through uninterrupted research, by improving skills, by upgrading equipment and infrastructure, and by incubating small, medium and micro-enterprises (SMME’s);
  • Use education, skills training and job creation to uplift communities that live near natural resources;
  • Improving accountability by ensuring compliance and reporting to the regulated environment to trade in crocodile and ostrich products; and
  • Generating knowledge for developing and implementing international standards and best-practice codes, and for evidence-based decision making.

The crocodile and ostrich industries are represented by the South Africa Crocodile Industry Association (SACIA) and the South African Ostrich Business Chamber (SAOBC), respectively.

These bodies are responsible for setting the “minimum standards” for members and work in association with  Exotic Leather South Africa. Membership to one of these bodies requires that members adhere to the set minimum standards. Participating members that resort under these bodies include:

Participating members that resort under these bodies include:

  • Producers
  • Slaughter facilities
  • Tanneries
  • Manufacturers
  • Retailers

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There are eight workgroups under the charge of Exotic Leather South Africa, namely:

  • Tanneries – The first stage of beneficiation in the exotic leather industry is the processing of raw skins into tanned leather. Whereas South Africa is well recognised as a source of raw skins, its international recognition of its ability to also produce quality tanned leather requires focused attention. To achieve this recognition, interventions have been developed to allow the local crocodile and ostrich tanning industry to enhance its image, capacity and quality. Special focus will also be on the development of more environmentally friendly practices and standards in the tanning processes.
  • Manufacturing – A key consideration is to establish the benefit of specific technology and processes in relation to quickening time to market and facilitation of trade while meeting or exceeding the standards set by the international market both in terms of product development, product quality and product costing.
  • Marketing and Trade – This workgroup’s aim is to develop a clear product or industry positioning strategy and define the Cluster’s offering to align with the needs of the international market.
  • Health, Welfare and Production – This workgroup’s interventions include developing policies, standards and guidelines for Nile crocodile farming in South Africa, implementation of a crocodile farm accreditation system, improving Nile crocodile herd health and welfare and to introduce modern technology in  production systems  on commercial farms. In order to do so a dedicated Nile crocodile research program has been developed to address the most pressing research requirements within the commercial farming operations.
  • Education – The exotic leather industry value chain requires specialized skills. Local employment opportunities range across the value chain, from specialized resource husbandry skills to tanning, design & leather craft skills and retail. Education, training and skills development are key to unlocking this potential and are required to move the industry to an internationally recognized and global competitive level.
  • Community Development – Increasing the participation of communities living in proximity to renewable wildlife resources is an integral part of the exotic leather industry’s objective to ensure that the natural renewable resources is protected and replenished and remains available for future generations. Exotic Leather South Africa, through the University of Pretoria, will initially focus on awareness building of the exotic leather industry by initiating projects aimed at uplifting communities living in close proximity to natural resources (crocodiles and/or ostriches) through education, skills training and job creation.
  • IT – The overarching purpose is to develop a South African Crocodile Industry Register to provide crocodile industry stakeholders with the necessary industry statistical information with which the industry can be studied and improved, while ensuring compliance to all relevant national and international legislation. The primary objective of the IT systems is to:
    • improve the visibility of the South African Crocodile industry to government and other stakeholders;
    • provide benchmarking information to the industry to promote continuous improvement;
    • inform the government CITES and TOPS permit issuing process in order to facilitate shorter turnaround times for permit applications;
    • provide the research community with a validated data set from which to perform in-depth research;
    • to inform an accreditation and certification process for all system participants; and
    • to provide the customer with confidence that the exotic leather product purchased has been sourced from legitimate, sustainable sources.


An IT Project Manager and IT junior Systems Developer have been appointed to manage the appointed Service providers and to assist with the development, implementation and management of the information portal which deals with members, including traceability of skins.

  • Admin and Finance – Qualified administrative and accounting officers will focus on operational management, corporate governance, administration and financial management.

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Functions of Exotic Leather South Africa

Statutory Compliance and Quality Control

The sustainability of the exotic leather industry and leather production is wholly dependent on producing quality skins. Quality raw materials require optimal crocodile and ostrich health, welfare and production, as well as limiting environmental impact. The cluster’s mandate is to improve on compliance with statutory requirements and implementing quality control measures to enable producers to successfully produce exotic skins that meet the required standards of the luxury goods industry.

Setting Standards

The developing of standards on resource welfare, and the development of an accreditation system will assist industry stakeholders to meet national requirements, international best practices and retailer and consumer demands.


Besides for continual research to improve health and production systems, the University of Pretoria Senate, during 2013, approved the establishment of the Exotic Leather Research Centre and its Constitution with a Director and Chairs in Crocodile Health and Welfare, Crocodile Production and Exotic Leather Trade and Marketing.


The function of the Centre is to act as the Technical Collaborator for Exotic Leather South Africa with the specific mission:

  • To provide scientific support in the local beneficiation of exotic leather industry throughout the value chain and thereby increasing the industry’s contribution towards skills development, job creation and increased export earnings;
  • To establish a national research capacity in crocodile health, welfare and production;
  • To provide high quality internationally accepted research throughout the value chain of exotic leather production and in the manufacture and trade in exotic leather-goods with an initial focus on crocodiles;
  • To provide human resource development both upstream and downstream in the exotic leather industry; and
  • To develop norms and standards that meet international standards of production, manufacture and trade in exotic leather and leather-goods and for the accreditation of farming practices.

The primary objective of the Centre will be to execute the interventions assigned to the University of Pretoria to:

    • Improve efficiency and quality throughout the value chain;
    • Ensure sustainability of the industry by developing production models based on a resource-efficient “life cycle” production approach across the production value chain;
    • Build supply chain capacity through on-going research, by improving skills, by upgrading of equipment and by incubation of small, medium and micro enterprises;
    • Uplift communities which are in close proximity to natural resources (crocodiles) through education, skills training and job creation;
    • Improve on the regulated environment for crocodile production and trading in crocodile products; and
    • Develop and implement international standards and best-practices; and
  • in addition to:
    • Build national and international recognition of the Centre;
    • Contribute to the national scientific community;
    • Develop national and international collaborative linkages; and
    • Establish sources of renewable funding.

The Centre and its associated Chairs are funded through the allocated CIP funding.

Marketing and Promotion

Of paramount importance is the role of Exotic Leather South Africa in promoting stakeholders throughout the entire value chain, both downstream (producers etc.), and upstream (world-class finished products etc.).

Global demand for exotic leather continues to grow, but the perception of poor compliance and regulations is seen as a major factor depriving communities of the benefits of this trade and potentially threatening the survival of the species used in this industry.

With the support of all its partners and role-players, Exotic Leather South Africa strives to change the negative perceptions and establish South African exotic leather as a high-quality contender amidst the global market.
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Key Role-Players

In its drive for success Exotic Leather South Africa has secured the support of a wide spectrum of role-players, including the following:

  • Industry role-players, including those involved in the upstream and downstream activities in the value chain;
  • The Department of Trade and Industry (the dti), but later other government entities such as the Technology Innovation Agency and the National Research Foundation;
  • The Departments of Environmental Affairs and Department of Agriculture and Forestry and Fisheries; and the
  • University of Pretoria as Technical Collaborator.

Exotic Leather South Africa would provide a platform where each of the role-players will contribute expertise, skills and resources to create synergy within the industry and ensure cost-effective interventions.
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South Africa is uniquely positioned to tap into the internationally luxury exotic leather market and to develop a world-class local exotic leather industry. South Africa produces two types of exotic leathers, namely ostrich and crocodile leather. These leathers are considered scares and exclusive, and coupled with their high-quality characteristics and uniquely aesthetic appearance, are considered highly sought-after raw materials for the manufacturing of luxury products (specifically accessories) for the international goods industry.

There is worldwide an increased awareness of environmental, social, economic and animal welfare impacts, emanating from the use of natural resources. Exotic Leather South Africa, as participant in the exotic leather industry, acknowledges the importance placed on ethical, sustainable and transparent/traceable sourcing policies and procedures, and adopts world-class standards for the production of exotic leather and products, with the aim to differentiate itself from other competing producer countries and to build a sustainable and growing industry which can benefit from the unprecedented growth in the global luxury market, experienced over the last few years.


The exotic leather industry in South Africa has untapped potential in terms of economic growth and local job creation. This ranges across the entire value chain, from initial stakeholders such as producers and tanneries to final export-ready leather goods; specialised animal husbandry skills to design and leather craft skills. Consumers of luxury goods (especially in the developed countries) expect the retailer to be responsible for the integrity of the complete supply chain. This is a relatively new phenomenon, and whereas this can be done at a basic level, luxury goods retailers cannot certify and control individual producers at ground level. This opens up new opportunities for Exotic Leather South Africa who aims to ensure that their industry participants have management plans which ensure sustainability of the industry, traceability of produced product, conservation of wild populations, care for the environment, compliance with animal welfare requirements and adhere to socio-economic expectations. One of the greatest challenges facing South Africa’s exotic leather industry is the perception that there exists a lack of obligation on most stakeholders to exercise stewardship of the resource, or to be involved in its conservation. To overcome this and other challenges and to exploit new opportunities opening up as a consequence of the unprecedented growth currently being experienced in the international luxury market, Exotic Leather South Africa has been established to serve as an industry vehicle for the South African Exotic Leather Market.
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