Namibian cement breaks borders

Namibia has positioned itself as a regional manufacturering powerhouse by taking its products out of the borders, into several sub-Saharan countries.

The latest development entails locally produced cement flocking out of the country, courtesy of Ohorongo Cement.

Ohorongo Cement is Namibia’s only cement-producing company. Constructed over the course of two years at a total cost of N$2.5b by leading international engineering company - Polysius - the cement giant owns the most modern plant in Africa.

Located on Farm Sargberg near Otavi in the Otjozondjupa Region, the Ohorongo plant has proven its stance by reaching its intended 700 000-tons-per-year target, allowing for expansion into export markets, including southern Angola, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Botswana.

The plant commenced production in December 2010. It is slated to turn out 700 000 tons of high quality cement annully for local consumption as well as for export purposes, from now henceforth.

Significantly, all raw materials required for the production process are sourced in Namibia and the entire value chain takes place within the country. This makes the company a fully Namibian certified product.

The managing director Hans-Wilhelm Schütte notes: “Exports to the Congo have increased in large quantities. Sales to Angola are increasing month after month and we expect to have vast increases in the coming calendar year. We are confident that the rest of 2013 will be a successful, considering the vast growth of the Namibian economy.”

With Namibia’s domestic demand for cement estimated at about 500 000 tons a year, Ohorongo is undoubtedly single handedly meeting the country’s cement needs and turning it into an exporter.

However, given its costs and scale of production, not to mention domestic demand, it is difficult to compete in price with the cement imported into Namibia.

“We only import 10% of raw materials from outside Namibia. Otherwise, all the other supplies we use are from within. Although packaging bags and coal are imported, the rest are local. In fact, we are now looking into using fossil fuel by transforming bush to fuel. This innovation will also come in handy towards job creation,” he empasises.

Ohorongo Cement currently has a permanent staff complement of 370 people. Through its wider role on the Namibian economy, however, the company has created about 2 000 jobs in total, according to Schütte.

The opening for more jobs remains the company’s top priority, though.

“Manufacturing growth is instrumental to Namibia’s economic growth. It is vital to support local suppliers to attain the Vision 2030 goals and attain a 6% growth per annum as envisioned. If we are to achieve these goals, then we need more local manufacturers,” Schütte insists.

He adds: “According to Billboard News, if every family spent only N$10 per month on local businesses, over N$46m would be directly returned to local economies per annum. That could mean 645 new jobs and N$16m in new wages per annum.”

The company has embraced the responsibility to establish a brand new industry for Namibia, which has made it eligible for the Infant Industry Protection (IIP) status. It also boasts of a long history, stemming from its German ownership.

In its efforts to further empower Namibian companies, the cement magnate also engages wholly subsidised Namibian service providers and suppliers.

“Ohorongo’s procurement policy gives preference to Namibian service providers and suppliers, provided that the supplier has the necessary production capacity and the product reflects the minimum price-performance ratio,” explains Schütte.

As part of its corporate social responsibility programmes, the cement manufacturing firm gives back through its Ohorongo Otavi Community Trust. The Fund works to directly and/or indirectly improve the lives of the people who stay in the community in which the mine operates.

“Ohorongo Cement wishes to contribute to the well-being of the community of Otavi. For this purpose, it established the Ohorongo Otavi Community Trust (OOCT) through which Ohorongo, in consultation with the Otavi community, works to improve living conditions of the inhabitants of Otavi and and surrounding areas. Through this Trust, we have renovated the Otavi Health Clinic and donated wheelchairs and food parcels to it. We also recently donated an ambulance to the Otavi Town Council because it did not have one, by the way.

“In addition to that, we have helped a number of SMEs start. Job creation is very important, especially in the community that we operate from. We therefore aim to promote economic growth in Namibia at large,” he states.

The company recently celebrated a key milestone in the history of its operations after it achieved a feat of 1 00 000 tons of sold cement.

“That milestone represents a lot in the history of this company. To attain it, 24 400 trucks, 5 230 bulk tankers and 414 950 pallets of cement were loaded while over 17 million bags of cement were produced as 823 108 truck tyres passed the weighbridge at dispatch,” divuldges Schütte.

The equipment Ohorongo Cement uses is another feature that has ‘wowed’ critics, not only in terms of production but also with regards to its environmentally safe energy consumption levels.

The company’s crusher handles 600 tons per hour. Towards the end of the production cycle, its packing plant produces 4 400 bags of cement on average per hour.

Compared to traditional ball mills, Ohorongo’s roller mills used for raw material and coal grinding ensures approximately 30% less electrical power consumption at 18MWh per day for the raw mill and approximately 2.5MWh per day for its coal mill. PF