Namibia: cement sector wants protection

Published 19 October 2011

Ohorongo Cement is reportedly planning to approach the government for infant industry protection status, as the cement market becomes more  competitive. If granted, the measure would lead to a ban on the importation of cement.

Last week, the Namibian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (NCCI), publicly added its weight to Ohorongo Cement’s case, asking for protectionist measures that would “allow [Ohorongo Cement] to recoup its investments and become competitive”.  The NCCI hit out at the government for encouraging entrepreneurs to venture into manufacturing while giving little support when the manufacturing venture takes off.

“We are very surprised that we supported the creation of a cement industry in this country by encouraging Ohorongo Cement to make the necessary investments into a cement manufacturing plant. But we still allow cement imports to reverse the gains we have been able to make in as far as the creation of a local cement industry is concerned,” said NCCI chief executive officer, Tarah Shaanika.

The chamber said manufacturing and real industrialisation would not take off “until we ensure that we have legal and policy instruments to support industrialisation in this country” .

Ohorongo Cement is the only cement plant on-stream thus far in Namibia, even though there are additional independent companies working to set up two cement plants, one at Otjiwarongo and the other in the vicinity of Karibib.

In the meantime, Namibia has about five companies that import cement products from China, Portugal, Brazil, as well as from South African cement manufacturer AfriSam, the oldest market leader.

“If we continue to increase the import of cement, then everything is not guaranteed anymore at Ohorongo Cement. Job opportunities, value addition, debushing projects and outsourcing of some activities at Ohorongo will be in danger,” Ohorongo Cement managing director Hans-Wilhelm Schutte said in August.

The import ban would follow the example of Angola which, two months ago, slapped a moratorium on cement imports, angering Namibian cement traders with businesses in Angola who were doing roaring business. Namibian business people described the Angolan moratorium on cement as a move “against regional integration”.