The construction of a clinker plant by Simba Cement in Sebit Hills of West Pokot County is promising to lift the fortunes of a region that bears the brunt of bandit attacks.
Apart from lowering the cost of cement, the project will also support the economic transformation of the region that records high levels of poverty.
It started in June last year and is expected to be completed this August. The project’s site leader Rajesh Soni said the crushing of the limestone from Sebit Hills is expected to start in October.
Cemtech Limited, which was the initial owner of the project, had acquired three parcels of land targeting the limestone deposits that make the raw materials for clinker extraction.
The company bought 240 acres of land in the Ortum region, 605 acres in Sebit and 918 acres at Chepchoi at a cost of between Sh150,000 to 450,000 per acre.
“This will provide enough raw materials that will last several generations,” said Mr Soni.
Simba Cement, which bought out Cemtech in 2019, started the construction of the factory, staff houses, schools, medical centre, staff training centre and other amenities on 650 acres for Sh120 million.
The firm was awarded 99 years of rights to mine limestone for cement production in the area.
As part of the project, the group will put up a 64-megawatt power plant and 50 megawatts from the plant power plant to be sold to the national grid.
Kavee Quarries had been mining limestone in the area since 1997 and transporting it to Uganda for processing.
The defunct West Pokot County Council was receiving just Sh1.2 million annually in royalties from the company and Sh200,000 annually for bursaries.
Once completed, the plant will have the capacity to process an estimated 6,000 tonnes of clinker daily, which translates to two million tonnes annually. The project is expected to cost the investor $220 million (about Sh29 billion).
Clinker is the biggest raw material in cement manufacture. After crushing in West Pokot, it will be transported to a grinding plant in Eldoret town.
Kenya imports cement-making material worth Sh10 billion annually with most cement factories importing clinker to cut losses.
Clinker is currently manufactured by the National Cement and Mombasa Cement.
Bamburi Cement, Savannah Cement, Rai Cement and Ndovu Cement are some of the companies that import clinker with the country importing more than 60 percent of the material.
According to Mr Soni, the grinding plant will have at least 250 workers to process clinker for Kenyan and Ugandan markets.
“We have embraced the latest technology and the factory has recycling systems that will achieve zero level of pollution emissions in a move that will enable us to produce nine megawatts of power that will be fed into the factory to complement other energy sources,” he said.
The company says the ongoing works have created jobs for more than 1,000 workers who are providing manual labour.
Once completed, 1,300 locals will be hired under operations and maintenance, the company says. And the local community is excited.
Geoffrey Sangwatei, who is in charge of human resources and administration, said that the economic fortunes of the region have changed.
“The demand for land to construct rental units has skyrocketed. For instance, a quarter an acre of a commercial plot here could fetch about Sh500,000,” Mr Sangwatei said.
Felix Loliposia, a local resident working at the site as a security guard, sees the new plant as a panacea for the perennial banditry crisis, which he associates with limited economic opportunities.
“Although we do not experience banditry here, we expect many young people to migrate from the other affected regions seeking jobs and other economic opportunities the project will endow to the West Pokot,” Loliposia said.