Competition in the cement industry is set to intensify as a Nigerian tycoon plans to build a multi-billion dollar plant at the Coast, increasing the number of factories to seven.
Aliko Dangote, Africa’s richest man, announced that he would put up a $400 million (Sh34 billion) cement factory in Mombasa that would use coal as a source of energy.
Industrialisation Cabinet Secretary Adan Mohamed welcomed the new plans by the investor.
“Mr Dangote is a respected businessman and his entry in the country will make the market competitive, driving up efficiency,” he said.
The minister expressed optimism that Mr Dangote would use the locally available raw materials to cut down on importation of clinker, which is used in cement production and accounts for 60 to 70 per cent of the total cost of the product.
Speaking during the Nigeria-Kenya business forum in Nairobi on Friday, Mr Dangote also noted that he was willing to invest in the oil industry.
“Nigeria has a vast knowledge on oil and we will also be happy to invest in the sector as we aim to strengthen the business partnership between the two countries,” says Mr Dangote.
The two countries, led by chairmen of their respective chamber of commerce, signed a memorandum of understanding on trade and investment, oil and gas, tourism, visa exemption for diplomatic passport holders, conclusion of agreements on double taxation, agriculture and fisheries.
Kenya Private Sector Alliance chief executive officer Carole Kariuki said businessmen from the two countries would partner in manufacturing, banking and agricultural sectors among other areas.
Mr Dangote, however, urged the two governments to strike a deal on visa restrictions in order to allow business people from both countries to work with ease.
“Visa restriction has been a major hindrance to investors, many of them are restricted to visas that expire after two years, this period is not enough for them to carry out a meaningful business.’’
Mr Dangote also said that business people from both countries should get their travelling documents at the airport as opposed to going to the embassies, adding that the move will save the time taken in acquiring the documents.
The government has ordered line ministries to expedite removal of restrictions on visa to allow speedy implementation of the agreements.
President Uhuru Kenyatta told the forum that Kenya is committed to eliminating barriers to movement of goods and services between the two countries.
“I direct the Cabinet secretary for interior to ensure that the visas held by Nigerian business people who are investing in the country is extended to between five to 10 years,” said Mr Kenyatta.
Mr Kenyatta encouraged Nigerians to invest in the country, adding that the government would ensure that their investments are protected.
He urged the technical committee that has been formed to ensure they achieve their objectives within the next two years, which is their target period.
He said Kenya and Nigeria are among Africa’s cornerstone economies and the two countries have enjoyed excellent and cordial relations anchored in common economic, cultural and historical ties.
“There is much more that we can and should do together in furtherance of this bond,” said President Kenyatta.
To strengthen the relationship, President Kenyatta said he will be visiting Nigeria early next year with a number of local investors.
President Goodluck Jonathan stressed the need for Kenya and Nigeria to work together, saying this was critical in promoting trade.
“We believe that with Nigeria and Kenya working together we will not only help the two countries but also create a platform to leverage Africa on trade and investment,” Mr Jonathan said.
Mr Jonathan said Kenya and Nigeria should go beyond primary production and work hand-in-hand to add value to their produce and encourage intra-Africa trade.
He said the two countries should cooperate to remove infrastructural hurdles that hinder the free movement of goods and services in Africa.
“Nigeria and Kenya are key countries in the continent and must work together for the good of the people of Africa,” President Jonathan said.