Kenya is set to join the league of steel exporters following the launch of construction work for a Sh50 billion steel mill at Mariakani, Kwale County.
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The mill will be built over three years, signalling an end to steel import bill estimated at Sh80 billion per year.
Devki Group, a leading steel manufacturer, is behind the project, which it says will be the second-largest in Africa after South Africa's Iron and Steel Industrial Corporation.
According to the group's proprietor, Narendra Raval, the steel factory will utilise recent iron ore and coal discoveries in the country.
Proximity to the Port of Mombasa informed the decision to put up the plant in Mariakani.
“We will have enough capacity to satisfy the local market and even produce for export to neighbouring countries,” said Mr Raval.
President Uhuru Kenyatta was scheduled to launch the construction before a last-minute change of plans.
The launch was presided over by Industrialisvation Cabinet Secretary Peter Munya, Baringo Senator Gideon Moi and several governors including the host, Salim Mvurya.
Gideon praised the project as a huge boost for the local manufacturing industry.
“I am very excited that Devki Steel is opening a project of its kind right here in Kwale. It gives me hope that similar projects can be replicated in other parts of the country,” said the senator.
Industrialisation Principal Secretary Betty Maina said the steel mill would create at least 1,000 jobs.
“This is an end-to-end factory which will process raw materials to finished products,” she said.
Kenya mainly imports processed steel from China. Local manufacturers only shape it to required sizes or shapes.
Other local manufacturers recycle scrap metal to form the metal bars that are sold in the market as new.
The Mariakani mill will produce 500,000 metric tonnes of the commodity widely used in construction and manufacturing.
Depending on the availability of iron ore and demand, the capacity could be scaled up to 1 million tonnes a year.
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Before the country starts producing its own iron ore, the main raw material for the manufacture of steel at the factory will be supplied from South Africa and China.