Kenya could soon transform from an importer of road construction material to an exporter within five years as a Luxembourg-based investor announced plans to build a bitumen manufacturing plant.
West European Group S.A.R.L says it will set up the factory in Shimoni, Kwale County at a cost of Sh500 million within the next five to seven years.
“Currently, Kenya’s bitumen demand is about 100,000 tonnes, all of which is imported. The plant will have an annual capacity of 280,000 tonnes, turning the country into a net exporter of cheaper bitumen that brings down the cost of road building by at least 10 per cent,” said Ali Paramani, the firm's chief executive officer said Saturday.
The company says it is bringing new technology to produce bitumen that is eco-friendly, which it claims is not poisonous.
“The construction material is inflammable and it is not poisonous like the one being used currently. Referred to as green bitumen, it is the one recommended for construction of roads because it is not harmful to the environment,” he said.
According to Mr Paramani, the move towards local production of the cheaper product could bring the cost building roads down by up to 10 per cent.
He was speaking at the launch of the Shimoni Integrated Development Project (SIDEP), a Sh9 trillion mega plan that will incorporate agro and fish processing, mining and water desalination with the aim of transforming lives of Kwale residents and boosting Kenya’s economy.
The ambitious plan is modelled after similar projects such as the Tatu City and the Lamu Port South Sudan and Ethiopia Transport Corridor (LAPSSET) where deep-pocketed private investors are invited to inject their cash into various projects.
It will be implemented by a consortium of investors from Europe, China and other Asian countries within a period of 25 years.
A local engineering firm, Shelter Solutions Limited (SSL), has partnered with the Coast Development Authority (CDA) and the Kwale County Government as lead developers in the project.
SSL specializes in power generation, hydro engineering and road infrastructure design.
The first phase will involve building agricultural and fish processing plants as well as construction of an elaborate road network to bitumen standards and low cost housing units, according to Saleh Mung’ang’a, SSL managing director.
Mr Mung’ang’a said 10,000 megawatts of electricity will be generated through desalination of sea water to be used in the mineral processing sector and irrigation. When the project is complete, it is expected to produce at least five million cubic metres of water daily for irrigation and other agricultural activities.
Farmers will be contracted to grow fresh farm produce for export to Europe, the Middle East and Asian countries to meet growing demand for organic food.
“Agricultural produce will be processed in a 4000 acre industrial park to be developed at Gazi for local and regional consumption as well as export by air and sea. A large scale international cargo and passenger airport will be constructed at Majoreni,” said Mr Mung’ang’a.
“Existing transport and communication infrastructure will need to be overhauled to support the movement of agricultural produce as well as well as the raw material to the industrial park. The project also entails construction of Africa’s largest waste management facility as part of its components,” he added.
The backers of the project say it is in line with Kenya’s quest to transform into a newly industrialised, middle-income country providing a high quality of life as outlined in the Vision 2030 blue print.
Wengfu Engineering & Contracting Co., a Chinese firm, has been picked to lead in modernisation and construction of roads while West European Group S.A.R.L will set up the plant to produce eco-friendly bitumen.