A seven-member technical team is due to leave for Japan today on a mission aimed at opening the doors for the transfer of banana textile technology to Rwanda.
The technology was first introduced in Rwanda in October 2008 by a delegation from Japan’s Tama Art University (TAU) – one of the research groups that developed the technology to manufacture textiles from banana fibre.
At the time, a group of instructors and students from TAU conducted a seminar and workshop on banana textiles, attracting scores of academics, researchers, politicians as well as weaving experts.
The mission is coordinated by the Rwanda Workforce Development Authority (WDA) – the Government agency charged with overseeing the implementation of the recently adopted integrated Technical and Vocation Education and Training (TVET) policy in the country.
The delegation is made up of members from WDA, Rwanda Development Board (RDB), Kigali Institute of Science and Technology (KIST) and UTEXRWA – the only textile manufacturing company in Rwanda.
The Japan-bound team is led by the RDB Deputy CEO in charge of Human Capital and Institutional Capacity Development, Deo Harolimana, while Johnson Rutayisire, a member of WDA Taskforce, is the deputy head of delegation.
“We are going to learn from our Japanese friends how this whole technology works before we can introduce a fully-fledged industry here,” WDA’s Rutayisire said yesterday.
During their one-week study tour, the delegation will hold talks with officials from Japanese ministries of Foreign Affairs; and Economy, Trade and Industry; as well as Tama Art University.
The delegates are also scheduled to visit the headquarters of Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) for talks on possible future collaboration on the project as well as Japanese factories that have banana textile manufacturing units.
The development is a culmination of President Paul Kagame’s visit to Japan last May during which members of the TAU’s Textile Design department made a presentation to him on the banana textile products made out of banana stems obtained from Rwanda.
At that time, the Head of State invited TAU students and lecturers to Rwanda to introduce this exciting technology – resulting in the October banana textile seminar and workshop in Kigali.
Since then, several ground work activities have been carried out including drafting of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between WDA, KIST and TAU to partner in the process to transfer the technology to Rwanda.
The delegation expects to sign the MoU with the Japanese varsity. Meanwhile, WDA, KIST, UTEXRWA and the Institute of Research, Science and Technology (IRST) are expected to draw plans on how to work together to promote the technology locally.
While WDA will be in charge of coordination of the project and setting the curriculum for a course on banana textile technology in vocational schools, KIST and IRST will be engaged with research and development (R&D) of the technology.
UTEXRWA’s intervention will come in the form of conversion of banana stems into textiles. The delegation also hopes to agree with TAU management on when a group of Rwandans should travel to Japan to be trained in the technology.
“It’s such an exciting innovation that we can’t wait to have it here,” the Minister of Science and Technology in the Office of the President, Prof. Romain Murenzi, told members of the Japanese delegation during their visit to Kigali in October, 2008.
And according to WDA Director General, Chong Fook Yen, the institution intends to introduce banana textile technology course as one of the training programmes under TVET system.
Banana is one of the staple foods in Rwanda, covering about 23 percent of the total cultivated area and grown by at least 80 percent of households.
Statistics show that the country produces about 2.5 million tonnes of banana per year.
In addition, there is a potential of banana fibre extraction of 2,500 tonnes each year. Presently banana stems in Rwanda and in many countries are treated as waste.