Export of raw skins, hides now hinders growth of local sector

Tuesday July 28 2020


A 2017 Leather Value Chain Technology Audit Report by the National industrial research and development agency put the country's annual leather production potential at 15.6 million square feet. Photo | Cyril Ndegeya  

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Lack of industrial activities in the local leather sector has been singled out as the major impediment to growth of the sector.

Despite the country’s expansion in livestock rearing that offers a significant resource of hides and skins, the sector has not taken off as bulk of raw materials are often exported in raw form.

Local leather producers indicated that they are forced to import all the materials they need largely from Kenya and Ethiopia while accessories come from as far as Europe, China and India at expenses that have a bearing on their production costs.

Dokmai Rwanda Ltd, a local maker of leather fashion accessories indicates that they had hoped to source materials from Kigali Leather Ltd, the sole company running a tannery but its leather faced quality tests.

Dokmai Rwanda manager Bernadette Umunyana told Rwanda Today there is no single local supplier of leather material and accessories needed in their daily operations.

“We asked them if they can offer a better quality of which they asked for the sample, but this is yet to materialize. We need at least two or three tanneries that can use the exported raw material resource to meet the local demand for quality leather or accessories,” she said.


Rwanda Today was unable to reach Kigali leather by press time but it is reported to produce wet blue leather from cowhides, sheep skin for export.

Used car tires

Local artisans say they have resorting to used car tires and clothes as a replacement for leather products that are in short supply locally.

“A few supplies brought in by town-based Kazi ni Kazi workshop dealers are of poor quality, using car tires and clothes as opposed to leather,” said Alphonsine Mukeshimana, a local entrepreneur running a leather shoe-making business.

“It is the only way to survive the competition of imported shoes, because for them it seems they have a variety of leather materials when for us it is not the case.”

Ministry of Trade and Industry said the government had approved tax exemption on the capital goods and raw materials in order to facilitate local leather production. The ministry added that there were several other interventions to enable processing of hides and skins domestically for use in the leather production.

The government indicates that the 5.8 hectare Apparel and Manufacturing Zone was set up and equipped in Kigali Economics Zone and 15 hactares space booked in the Bugesera Industrial Park to accommodate apparel and leather industries.

“A section of that land was allocated to two investors namely Rwantan for leather production and Robert Supply Ltd for textiles. Some other investors including Pluripel from Italy are willing to populate the Bugesera tannery park,” the ministry said.

Official statistics put the volumes of exported hides and skins at 1.07 million kilogrammes as at 2019. The volume however, reduced from 6.3 million and 3.4 million kilogrammes in 2017 and 2018 respectively due to a decline in demand from the export markets.