We have the high quality steel for infrastructural projects – Lalani

We have the high quality steel for infrastructural projects – Lalani

The on-going government projects in the Energy, Transport and Construction sector have created opportunities for Ugandan investors to supply building and construction materials – despite the tendency of foreign contractors importing these materials. Roofings Limited is the biggest steel producer in the country and Executive Director, Oliver Lalani urges government to appreciate the standard high quality steel produced locally and the impact on industry growth and economic development by enforcement of local content.

Government says it needs better quality steel for its projects. In your view, does this imply that local producers can’t meet the standard required?

Contractors of the Government projects say the quality of steel products in Uganda isn’t good but we can challenge this any day because our products are even better than some of the products they are importing from Asia.  We have engaged different stakeholders in government to see that local industries are supported in the country’s construction projects because the government has huge demand which we can meet without question. In fact, government demand was a key determinant in defining the capacity of our plant – Roofings Rolling Mills (RRM), which we recently commissioned in Kampala Business Park, Namanve.

The quality local materials can be used in the ongoing major construction projects today like the New Nile Bridge, Karuma and Isimba dam,plus the Entebbe express highway. With investments like ours, the dynamics of the steel manufacturing sector have changed drastically. We now have the process controls, capacities, laboratories and quality assurance needed to supply high end infrastructural projects. Gone are the days that Uganda should rely on imported products for such construction. With this in mind, we urge the government and the contractors to support local industries and generate a multiplier effect for development. At the end, it is local industry which will be using the new infrastructure being built.

On average, a Ugandan will build one house in his lifetime. As Roofings we are conscious of the fact that if we are to sell our population substandard building materials, it beats the rationale of sustainability in our business model and the reputation which we have worked so hard to build over the last 20 years. We call upon government and other stakeholders to be vigilant and consider genuine Ugandan steel products. We are totally against substandard materials because they corrode trust in the entire industry.

How has Roofings adhered to the UNBS directive on single coated and below gauge colored iron sheets and twisted iron bars?

Initially, the Uganda National Bureau of Standards had given a directive to stop the manufacture and importation of the above products with a deadline of June 30th2015.

Roofings has been part of the process of informing government especially UNBS (Uganda National Bureau of Standards) about the risks of using twisted bars. At Roofings, we never manufactured twisted bars in our history since we were well aware of the threats to the consumer.

Roofings started producing ribbed bars, high tensile debars for construction in 2010. The reason why we never considered producing twisted bars is because we knew it was an inferior product on the market, this is because the strength in the bars is created by the cold twist – so the chemical properties of the steel are not to the required standard – the bars get some superficial strength because the core of the bar remains high carbon steel which is brittle. So we are happy that UNBS came up with the directive, we were part of this directive and we embarked on a nationwide campaign to sensitize the public about the risks of using these twisted bars in all regions of Uganda.

There is a need for all steel products to meet the US BS4449 standard which require yield strength of grade 500. All the steel bars must at least be 12 meters in length and 6mm, 8mm, 10mm, 12mm, 16mm, 25mm, 32mm or 40mm in diameter. The name of the manufacturer and the grade must be clearly visible on the bar through embossing on the production line.

Roofings Ltd produces about 2,800 tons of ribbed bars per month however; we have a capacity to make 6,000 tons per month. This shows that we have ample room to supply the commercial construction sector as well as the infrastructural projects.

Galvanized iron sheets must meet the US EAS 11:2013 galvanized plain and corrugated steel sheets specifications.

On the issue of single coated colored iron sheets, the standards indicated clearly that there should be two layers of coating on top  and one beneath – a thing Roofings has been doing all along with its double coat system. Some players on the market have not been doing this, however with the UNBS directive, they are now in the process of embracing the technology to meet the required standard.

With single coatedcolored iron sheetsthe paint coating peels off and fades quickly. Besides this the longevity of the iron sheets is also compromised during the manufacturing process by reducing the zinc base coatingwhich should be 122 grams per square meter as per the standard. This results in quick corrosion of the sheet which can even start after 1 year in some cases.

“In 2016, we will … coat our roofing Sheets made in Namanve with anAluzinc base. Aluminum is moreRust preventive than zinc”

Regarding galvanized iron sheets, UNBS has implemented a color distinction in markings on the iron sheets. Whereas gauge 32 must be marked with blue, Gauge 30 should be marked with red and gauge 28 is to be marked with a black stamp.

What are some of the projects that you have embarked on?

Over the last 20 years we have continuously expanded our product range. Last year, we introducednew wrinkled or matt textured iron sheets – we call it wrinkle finish,which is a premium product. We apply wrinklepatterned paint, a rough finishing which gives the sheet a very aesthetically pleasing look, and reduced the glare from the reflection of the sun on the sheet.Our ordinary glossy finish sheets are still available so now the customer has a wider choice of designs to choose from.

So we are seeing tremendous improvement in Roofings’metallic tile collection – these new products are becoming more popular than the traditional clay tiles because our tilesare lighter (supports the weight of the roof), more durable (can last for over 15 years without colours fading) and cheaper (less than half the normal price).

In 2016, we will be installing technology to coat our roofing sheets made in Namanve with an Aluzinc base. Aluminium is more rust preventive than zinc, so having a mixture of both metals will increase the longevity of the product by at least 150%. This is an innovative and new product on the market which has a different surface finish than the ordinary zinc coated sheets. Some consumers in East Africa prefer the texture of zinc coated sheets since it has more shine. For this reason we will have an interchangeable system which will produce both types of sheets. As the market get educated, the ordinary coated products will become less preferable after which we will switch completely to Aluzinc coating.

In another development this year, in order for Roofings to continue to serve its customers better, we have partnered with a company in New Zealand called ‘Tilcor’. Tilcor is a producer of stone coated roofing tiles with a competitive advantage because it has all the required compositions to make these tiles in New Zealand on a large scale. These tiles are ideal for residential complexes as they mimic clay tiles very well and are lighter. Currently Roofings trades in this product, but we haveplans to start manufacturing these tiles here in Uganda once we develop the market more.

On the other hand this year we have spent a lot of effort in terms of enhancing local content and infrastructural development on projects for the local industry to play an active part. This is a key concern for Roofings and we urge government to meet the challenges we operate in especiallyabout accessing these markets.

Additionally, in Kigali Rwanda, Roofings has opened up its new outletwhere we have a wide range of our products in stock. We have acquired some land in the special economic zone in Kigali where we will set up a factory in the future.This operation will complement our investments in Uganda as we shall use some of the products from Namanve like coils to make downstream products in Rwanda. The Rwandan market is quality conscious and is further inland from Uganda so we optimize the logistic costs, making our products competitive. We are optimistic that this operation will add great value to our groups operations.

Then in the area of PVC/ HDPE and PPRplastic pipes, 2015 has brought very good volume growth of about 150% insales. We now have the capacity to makeup to 450 millimeterpipes whichare increasingly being used in water and sewage systems all over the country. Roofings Ltd has won various contracts with National water and sewerage corporation (NWSC) and is proud to be their preferred supplier of plastic pipes for the infrastructure projects of water transportation.

The ultimate goal for Roofings Group is to use the vast local Iron Ore resources as an input to make steel products in Uganda. This will eliminate the dependency on imported steel. Currently more than 45% of the cost of our inputs is spent on marine and rail/road logistics whilst bringing the product to our plants from Japan, South Africa, etc. The anticipated investment required will be in excess of Ugx 300 billion. In order to justify such an investment we require the full support of government and the regional markets to off take the massive capacities that this plant would have. Secondly, the energy requirements in producing steel from iron ore are substantial. Currently Uganda does not have the gas infrastructure or coal deposits to support such a plant, so we require medium term solutions which lie in the gas pipeline in western Uganda and the standard gauge railway to make coal transportation from Mombasa more viable.

“In the vast iron ore resources …anticipated investment requiredwill be in excess of Ugx 300 billion”

In conclusion, Roofings Group is very thankful for the emphasis on standards because without this – quality conscious companies like ourscan’t survive in this market. Legitimate investments require a leveled playing field to flourish and impact the growth of a sector. Tax evasion, substandard/ counterfeited products as well as adherence to health and safety standards should be controlled in order to level the playing field. The Ugandan government needs to continue to emphasize the importance of fair competition so that legitimate investors choose Uganda as an investment destination, and that projects like ours are successful.

Source: Trade Focus News