The East African Portland Cement Company (EAPCC) has pitched camp in Southern Sudan after it was granted a licence by the regional government to open a warehouse in Juba.
The Kenyan cement manufacturer has started operations in the region, which is expected to grow its turnover. Mr Zakayo Ole Mapelu, the EAPCC managing director said construction of the warehouse was finalised last week and that the company was making arrangements to ship goods to the new facility. EAPCC now joins other exporters from Uganda and Egypt in competition for market share in the vast region.
"It is very exciting for us and the people of Southern Sudan. The investment will enable us to help in the reconstruction of the region," said Mapelu. The company is set to benefit in many fronts as Southern Sudan is experiencing a construction boom. It puts EAPCC at a strategic position to benefit from a $190 million multi-donor trust fund that was set up for reconstruction of the region.
Mapelu said the Juba warehouse would start operations immediately and will try to meet the immediate demand for cement in the region. The company plans to open a second warehouse in the Southern Sudan town of Rumbek soon. The proposed venture seeks to tap into new cement markets in the region. The company also expects to expand to Yei among other viable business centres.
"The logistics are still difficult, but our being in Juba marks a major step in our efforts to increase our presence in the region, and grow our business," said Mapelu. He cited the bad road network between Kitale and Lokichoggio as a logistic problem and said the road to Juba was also in poor state. "This is one of our biggest challenges because we are forced to pass our goods through Uganda, where they are incurring more taxes, thus making them expensive," said Mapelu.
Currently, it takes an average of 14 days for the company to transport cement from its Nairobi deport to Juba through Lokichoggio, while it takes its Uganda competitors only four days to reach Juba. As a result, the company’s cement is selling slightly more expensively compared to that of its competitors.
In Juba, a bag of cement from the EAPCC goes for between $16 and $18, while those from the competitors - companies from Uganda and Egypt - retail at a price that is lower by between $2 and $4. Mapelu said they expect to supply products to aid agencies and non-governmental organisations among others, but admits that there were still many challenges.