Botswana Cement Manufacturers Association (BCMA) has indicated that the recent decision by the South African government to ban the importation of cement for all government funded projects will not affect local manufacturers.
BCMA Chairman Nkosi Mwaba said although the local manufacturers are hell-bent on improving the local supply before starting to export, what the South African government has done is commendable.
Mwaba said this is an indication that countries are willing to protect their own industries.
“In terms of export from Botswana we were not necessarily exporting any cement into South Africa, so from our export capability side we were still not yet there. The decision itself proves to us as an Association that countries are willing to protect their industries but in our case our belief is that we have a directive that there should be local presence even though it is not being practiced as it should be,” said Mwaba.
He stated that there is need on the part of government to ensure that there is implementation of policies in order to grow the local industry to realise its full potential.
“We should take a chapter from South Africa in terms of how they are able to do their own things and implement them so that we can grow the industry and create sustainable jobs,” added Mwaba.
Mwaba further said although their long term goal is to penetrate the export market there is still little capacity to compete with existing brands.
He stated that currently there are 3 local cement manufactures in the country, highlighting that South Africa and Namibia have been dominating the local market.
“For us to satisfy and grow our market this side we need a bit of predictability in terms of how our industry is protected because we have an issue at the moment where Namibia is dumping more cement into Botswana than South Africa at the moment. There is an aggressive push from the Namibian side to bring cement into the northern part of the country,” added Mwaba.
He indicated that they are already trying to see how best they can deal with imports, adding that once achieved this can encourage more local suppliers to increase capacity.
“Government is receptive to the idea of coming up with a regulation framework, it is only that in the private sector there is always an urgency to have government dealing with the issue at hand instantly,” said Mwaba.
Mwaba added that the local industry is currently losing jobs to companies that are not set-up in the country.
“Our local capacity stands at 70% and that is why we are currently not looking at any restrictive instrument to hamper foreign products from entering our borders because there will be a point where imports will be required,” said Mwaba.
He said in order to aid their efforts of increasing local production the Association will soon begin to source ash from the Botswana Power corporation adding that engagements are almost complete.
“We have been importing ash from neighboring countries but now that our discussions with BPC are almost complete we will be able to increase capacity,” said Mwaba.
He stated that even though they are content with allowing only 30% of the imported cement that should however be regulated.
“Once these issues have sorted, now we can have our members being to re-invest to meet the entire local demand and start thinking along the lines of export,” stated Mwaba.
For her part, Acting Deputy Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Investment, Trade and Industry Ruth Baoki stated that they are aware of the issues that have been raised by the Association, highlighting that they continue to engage them to find a common ground.
“I have come across their concerns and we are looking into them, hopefully we will be able to engage them again with a solution,” said Baoki.