Rwanda's largest cement maker, Cimerwa, has resumed production after a two-month break for maintenance and upgrade.
Uganda’s Hima and Tororo cement manufacturers have also announced plans to resume production after a temporary shut down last quarter.
Cimerwa’s resumption of production is expected to ease a cement deficit in Rwanda and Uganda, and stabilise prices that have been increasing due to supply shocks.
The plant started the post-maintenance test runs of its plant in Bugarama, which has an installed capacity of 600,000 tonnes per annum but is currently producing below 60 per cent, hoping to start full production in May.
Cimerwa CEO Bheki Mthembu said the upgrade will improve equipment reliability and operational efficiency. The plant’s capacity has been upgraded by 25 per cent, from the current 352,979 tonnes annually to 441,223 tonnes, which is 74 per cent of its 600,000 installed capacity.
This positions the cement maker to remain the dominant player on the Rwandan market as well as increase its exports to the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Importation of construction material had been exerting pressure on the country’s foreign reserves.
“During the maintenance break, Cimerwa imported clinker from the UAE to ensure that key strategic projects in country — most of which are infrastructural projects — continued to be supplied with cement.
“The plant never ran out of cement, but rather took a decision to spare the limited cement volumes for strategic projects, thus ensure that none of the country’s strategic infrastructural projects stopped,” said Mr Mthembu.
The second cement plant — Kigali Cement Company, which is fully owned by Kenya’s ARM Cement, suspended production due to shortage of clinker, and an ongoing court case about a debt by the former owners of the plant — Rwanda Enterprise Investment Company.
However, the two cement factories do not satisfy the growing domestic demand, bolstered by the booming construction industry.
Data from Rwanda Revenue Authority shows that last year, at least 79,573 tonnes of cement was imported from Tanzania and an additional 164,814 tonnes were imported from Uganda.
The National Bank of Rwanda says imports declined by 17 per cent in value and 6.2 per cent in volume.
This was due to the reduction in cement imports by 6.9 per cent, from 267,000 tonnes in 2016 to 245,000 tonnes in 2017.