Devki lays off hundreds at clinker plants

Devki Group of Companies Chairman Narendra Raval. [David Njaaga, Standard]

National Cement Company will send home at least 860 workers after its clinker manufacturing plant at Emali, Kajiado County, floundered.

This comes months after the subsidiary of Devki Group of Companies shut down its Mombasa clinker plant and laid off more than 300 workers over unutilised capacity.

“We had hired additional staff in line with our expanded clinker capacity so as to satisfy local demand, but imports are eating into this market,” said Devki Group Chairman Narendra Raval in a statement Saturday.

“It is, therefore, difficult to sustain jobs when there is no demand to allow us to operate at full capacity.”

Mr Raval said the company might join other manufacturers in importing clinker, a critical input for the production of cement. 

The closure is a blow to the country’s manufacturing ambition under the Big Four agenda, where President Uhuru Kenyatta plans to create quality jobs by encouraging value addition. 

The government targets to grow the manufacturing sector to 15 per cent of the gross domestic product.

“Kenya appears to have become a duty-free country, and we may also consider stopping local manufacturing and importing clinker like others,” said Raval.

“Millions of dollar investments are going down because of policy gaps. As a country, how are we going to encourage more investments and industrialisation to create jobs for millions of youth?” 

Clinker is mostly shipped in from overseas, hampering the country’s ambition to revamp its manufacturing sector.

In the five years to 2020, cement makers spent an annual average of Sh8.3 billion to import 4,439.7 tonnes of clinker from countries such as Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Pakistan.  

There was a push by some cement manufacturers for Kenya to raise import duty on clinker to 25 per cent from the current 10 per cent, but the clamour has faltered.

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