Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage on

Designer takes bull by the horns ... and crafts luxury jewelry

From Nicola Goulding, CNN
November 26, 2013 -- Updated 1311 GMT (2111 HKT)
Zanaa is a designer label producing jewelry and accessories made from a variety of materials, including ankole cow horns. Zanaa is a designer label producing jewelry and accessories made from a variety of materials, including ankole cow horns.
HIDE CAPTION
Cow horn jewelry
Cow horn jewelry
Cow horn jewelry
Cow horn jewelry
Cow horn jewelry
Cow horn jewelry
Cow horn jewelry
Cow horn jewelry
Cow horn jewelry
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
>
>>
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Zanaa is a Uganda-based company making jewelry from ankole cow horns
  • Its high-end products are sold in the United States and Europe
  • "Africa has abundance of beautiful materials," says Zanaa's founder

CNN Marketplace Africa is a weekly show offering a unique window into African business on and off the continent.

Kampala, Uganda (CNN) -- All that glitters is not gold, and not all designer jewelry is made from precious metals and gemstones.

A few years ago, Linda Lwanga's love of traditional African designs led her to her ancestral home in Uganda's capital of Kampala, giving up her career in electrical engineering in the UK.

Once in the country, the British-born designer started Zanaa, a luxury label producing high-end jewelry and accessories made from a variety of materials, including ankole cow horns.

Used for centuries for their milk and meat, ankole cows are indigenous to east Africa. Yet once they are slaughtered their striking long horns are usually discarded -- and this, Lwanga thought, represented a sustainable business opportunity.

"If it weren't for making something out of cow horn it would have been disposed of," says Lwanga. "Typically in Africa we tend to burn a lot -- our garbage, our waste is burnt and it's not environmentally friendly at all so I just thought of collecting it and transforming it into something beautiful."

Read this: Fishing boats reborn as furniture

From horn bangles and chic rings to eye-catching necklaces and earrings, Zanaa's growing jewelry line is sold to high-end buyers in the United States and Europe. Lwanga says that all the products are handmade by a small dedicated team of local artisans.

"Zanaa means illuminate the source, the source being Africa, where we have an abundance of beautiful materials, an abundance of amazing craftsmanship," says Lwanga. "We are losing a lot of our heritage, our culture and our artisans, in a sense, are kind of losing hope," she adds. "So we are trying to get that artisanal craftmanship and keep it."

Alongside the cow horn, Lwanga sources other traditional materials for her designs, such as imported leather from Ethiopia and beads from South Africa.

Yet doing business from Kampala has not been without problems.

"I would say timeliness is the biggest challenge," says Lwanga. "Trying to get your products to market in a short space of time and be competitive."

Regional trade

Uganda, often described as the "pearl of Africa," is one of the continent's most beautiful nations. The landlocked country, however, is also one of Africa's poorest -- according to a 2009 report by the World Bank, 38% of the population lives below the poverty line.

The country is part of COMESA, a trading bloc of 19 nations in east and southern Africa. Its free trade arrangements are designed to allow regional trade to flow easily between the member countries.

Read this: Weapons of mass creation

Uganda's trade within COMESA is worth $1.2 billion annually, according to the country's ministry of trade. But transporting goods is one of the key problems due to crumbling roads and expensive air travel.

For Zanaa, accessing information and understanding how the trade bloc can benefit young entrepreneurs has been problematic.

"I had to go directly to the ministry of trade to find out about the tariffs for example, how to import," explains Lwanga, who already trades with many of the countries in the COMESA trading bloc. "So it was more proactive, actually going out to seek that information."

Putting businesses on the map

Uganda's ministry of trade says it knows the system is far from perfect but insists much is being done to improve the availability of information to businesses in the country.

"We have promoted the district commercial offices because some of these small and medium-sized enterprises are out in the rural areas," says Amelia Kyambadde, minister of trade, industry and cooperatives. "So they are able to access them and give them information about the market standards and the necessary facilitation that they need."

Read this: Artist gives trash a second chance

Although still a work in progress, Lwanga says she sees the potential for her future if Uganda's regional trading relations continue to grow, especially when it comes to distributing her products.

"It will impact the business greatly," she says. "If we can get import and export of the products smoothly and in a timely manner, an affordable manner and understanding what tax breaks we can get from doing business in such a way that will be fantastic," adds Lwanga. "It will enable us to be put on the map."

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
CNN Style
September 1, 2014 -- Updated 2143 GMT (0543 HKT)
Ever since it appeared on the cover of Animals, Pink Floyd's 1977 album, Battersea Power Station in London has been famous around the world.
August 29, 2014 -- Updated 1323 GMT (2123 HKT)
Despite the dominance of digital tools, a new wave of artists are using paper to make mind-blowing art.
August 29, 2014 -- Updated 1037 GMT (1837 HKT)
Glowing trees and carnivorous tables? Why creepiness is the secret to sustainability.
August 28, 2014 -- Updated 1113 GMT (1913 HKT)
Matthew Malkiewicz takes beautiful photos of historic steam trains whose nostalgic romance transports you to a bygone era.
August 18, 2014 -- Updated 1009 GMT (1809 HKT)
Imagine watching the northern lights through the transparent roof of your own glass igloo. CNN takes a look at the most awe-inspiring hideouts.
August 19, 2014 -- Updated 1001 GMT (1801 HKT)
Photographer Romain Jacquet-Lagrѐze captures the giant skyscrapers swamping Hong Kong
August 28, 2014 -- Updated 0439 GMT (1239 HKT)
It's largely devoid of human life -- the Arctic is surely the worst possible destination for an arts festival.
August 11, 2014 -- Updated 1039 GMT (1839 HKT)
Beauty with purpose - these impressive clocks stun with their intricacy, history and grandeur.
August 6, 2014 -- Updated 0722 GMT (1522 HKT)
An image showing a proposed floating snowflake hotel to be built in Norway.
Opening in December 2016, The Krystall Hotel might melt hearts as guests check into this giant floating snowflake
August 5, 2014 -- Updated 1337 GMT (2137 HKT)
Wim Noorduin, a Harvard scientist, creates delicate micro-sculptures of flowers using a chemical reaction.
July 30, 2014 -- Updated 1235 GMT (2035 HKT)
Designer Justin Plunkett layers photos and computer-generated illustration to create Mad Max-like images of post-apocalyptic architecture.
July 24, 2014 -- Updated 2054 GMT (0454 HKT)
CNN went to the International Talent Support contest in Trieste, Italy, to find out who will be the next big name in fashion design.
ADVERTISEMENT