AFRICA: Uzuri K&Y to produce its eco-friendly shoes in South Africa and Tanzania

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AFRICA: Uzuri K&Y to produce its eco-friendly shoes in South Africa and Tanzania ©UZURI K&Y

The Rwandan start-up Uzuri K&Y, specialized in recycling used tires into shoes, wants to expand its network in Tanzania and South Africa. A project that will contribute to increase its production and its contribution to the recovery of waste in Africa.

In Rwanda, Uzuri K&Y, a start-up specialized in recycling used tires into shoe soles, plans to expand its industrial network in Tanzania and South Africa, two countries where urban landfills are the source of a large part of greenhouse gas emissions.

The start-up, which also recently launched a new line of indoor slippers, is targeting imported items that it will replace with local and sustainable products in order to develop waste processing and recovery in these two other African countries, just as it does in Kenya, where it already has a presence.

Sustainable rubber sandals© Roxane 134/Shutterstock

In South Africa, the tyre industry produces about 10 million or 200,000 tonnes of used tyres per year ©Roxane134/Shutterstock

Since its creation in 2012 by Kevine Kagirimpundu and Ysolde Shimwe, Uzuri, which means “beauty” in Swahili, has sold more than 44,000 pairs of shoes to Rwandans and European tourists alike. Although rubber sandals do not appeal much to nationals, the brand has managed to convince its foreign clientele with the argument of durability. The start-up is forecasting a turnover of $300,000 in 2021, despite the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.

With a permanent team of 85 people in its main manufacturing plant in Gahanga on the outskirts of Kigali, the company uses rubber for the sole, biodegradable fabric painted with natural dyes, synthetic vegetable leather for the other parts of the shoe, and natural adhesives to assemble the whole.

Rwanda wants to drastically reduce its waste production by 2050. The multiple measures taken by the government to ensure the ecological transition offer an opportunity for entrepreneurs to invest in sustainable green trends that are increasingly in vogue.

Eliminating and reclaiming waste from the Rwandan landscape

The Rwanda Environmental Management Authority (Rema) and the Private Sector Federation (PSF) invested $3 million in June 2021 to build a plant to recycle plastic waste into paving stones in Mageragere, Nyarugenge District. By 2022, the facility will handle polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottles, straws, spoons, knives, bags and plastic building materials.

Rwanda is also a continental partner in the Circular Plastics Project, an initiative to recycle plastic waste collected in low- and middle-income countries such as Kenya, Rwanda and Nigeria into materials for agriculture. Using this collected plastic waste and 3D (three-dimensional) printed into agricultural tools, British researchers are designing sand dredging adapters, non-electric milk coolers and machete peelers, etc.

Read also-RWANDA: Waste to Resources, an initiative to valorise waste in Kigali

In addition, the Rwandan authorities recently launched a project to provide each district in the country with an e-waste collection point. The project is being implemented in partnership with Enviroserve Rwanda Green Park, the subsidiary of Enviroserve, a company based in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. According to the Rwandan government, 10,000 tons of e-waste are generated each year in the country.

Benoit-Ivan Wansi

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