From medicines to car seats, Rwanda seeks to maximise cows value chain

A new scheme dubbed, ‘Cow in the Car, that seeks to leverage science and technology to get more returns from cowhides, horns, and fats, is set to help improve the country’s livestock value chain.  

The project is being spearheaded by the National Industrial Research and Development Agency (NIRDA) with support from Eastern and Southern Africa Trade and Development Bank (TDB), and the OCP Group, a Moroccan fertiliser manufacturing company.


Officials say the idea is to maximise the number of products along the cows value chain.


For instance, they said, the Volkswagen cars assembled in Rwanda will be fitted with the leather from processed hides of cows bred in the country.


In addition, cow body parts can be processed to produce medical insulin.

“From a cow’s pancreas, we can manufacture insulin (medication) for people with diabetes. And there is a large number of people who are diabetic not only in Rwanda but across Africa and the world over, yet there is a shortage of insulin around the world,” Frannie Léautier, an executive from TDB, formerly PTA Bank.

Participants follow a presentation as NIRDA gives details on Cow in the Car Value Chain. Sam Ngendahimana.

To illustrate her point, Léautier, who was speaking at the launch of the project in Kigali, observed that that 10 hides can make all the seats for a car.

“One of the ideas is to think about how the leather value chain can be improved to give high-quality leather products,” she added.

Léautier explained that the horns and bones of cows can be used to make ornaments and jewellery as well as fancy dashboards for vehicles.

So many of the body parts are then dumped as waste, yet can be processed into viable products.

For fats, they can be used to produce rubber for car tyres, Léautier noted.

And, for those interested in investing in the project, there are interest-free loans available.

The Director-General of NIRDA, Kampeta Sayinzoga, said they want to use science and technology to add value to the cow through innovation.

Kampeta pointed out that NIRDA works with Development Bank of Rwanda (BRD)  to finance innovative businesses in the cow value chain with interest free loans and without collateral.

“NIRDA will also provide free technical and commercial advisory services,” Sayinzoga added.

“We hope that the project will help support the emergence of new industries, and make farmers understand the value of the cow beyond the meat,” Kampeta added.

The Minister for Trade and Industry, Soraya Hakuziyaremye, welcomed the move, describing it as a step forward in the country’s industrialisation journey.

She said that once operational, imports will drop, further boosting the economy.

Statistics from NIRDA show that Rwanda cattle off-take rate is between 30 per cent and 33 per cent a year, meaning that about 462,000 cattle are taken every year for slaughter or export.

Total demand for finished leather in Rwanda ranges from 200,000-250,000 square feet per month, translating into 8,000 to 10,000 hides per month.

Rwanda mostly imports finished leather from Kenya, Tanzania, and Ethiopia.

Applicants should be those who have been in cow value chain business for at least three years or young innovators with innovative ideas and have been in business for at least one year.

The application is done via NIRDA’s  and applicants are encouraged to submit their project proposals by February 10, 2020.

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