Namibia’s sole cement manufacturer, Ohorongo Cement, says 2015 has thus far seen tremendous results compared to the same time in all preceding years since the company started production in 2011.
Managing Director Hans-Wilhelm Schutte attributed the much improved performance to an increase in infrastructure projects by both the government and the private sector, as well as export inroads made in neighbouring countries.
During a visit by an Otjozondjupa regional delegation, led by Governor Otto Ipinge, on Thursday last week, Schutte admitted that initial sales were “extremely tough” but was quick to add that the factory, which constituted an initial investment of N$2.5 billion, has been running perfectly since day one and expects both local and regional sales to grow, going forward.
“Since 2011 we have improved significantly. Towards the second half of 2013 things really started picking up and 2014 saw us doing really well in terms of sales,” said Schutte.
He noted that massive cement-consuming infrastructure projects such as NamPort’s port expansion and the Neckartal dam have made notable contributions to Ohorongo’s performance of late.
Notable inroads have been made in countries such as Botswana, Zimbabwe, Democratic Republic of Congo and Zambia.
He, however, expressed disappointment at border control frustrations in exporting cement to Angola. “We have not made any inroads in Angola. The border control on the Angolan side is one of the biggest challenges. Sometimes the trucks have to wait at the border for four to six days and this is just unacceptable,” complained Schutte.
Also, regarding the outcome of the ongoing court case, for which judgement is being awaited, where infant industry protection (IIP) is being challenged by a cement importer, Schutte remarked that it is Ohorongo’s intention to remain competitive in the medium to long-term, both domestically and in the region. “I think it’s great that African countries are protecting their own markets,” said Schutte.
Government has granted IIP to the cement, chicken processing and dairy industries saying they add value to Namibian products and create jobs in the economy.
However, local consumers have argued that prices of these ‘protected’ products are not necessarily lower than those of imported products despite the protection measures. But government has strongly defended the IIP scheme, saying the protection measures promote local value addition, which grow the economy.
Meanwhile, Mwadina Muashekele-Sibiya, the special advisor to Otjozondjupa Governor Ipinge, said the governor’s office was very impressed with Ohorongo Cement, particularly with the company’s support to the local community in terms of both local procurement and corporate social responsibility.
“They are a company that supports sourcing everything from the local market, which is a strategy that can only uplift the region and the country at large. I advise all businesses operating in Namibia to take this approach,” said Muashekele-Sibiya.
She added that she was amazed at the cleanliness of the Ohorongo plant, especially considering that it is a cement factory.
The Germany-based Swenk Group, through Swenk Namibia (Pty) Ltd is the majority owner of Ohorongo Cement, with minority shares held by the Industrial Development Corporation, the Development Bank of Namibia and the Development Bank of South Africa.