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Govt pledges investment support

NAIROBI, November 28- The government has pledged its support for Kenyan companies that want to set up their operations in the East African region and beyond.

Prime Minister Raila Odinga assured such firms of State intervention as they sought to be competitive on the global scene in a bid to stamp Kenya’s authority as a business hub of the region.

“We will be at your service. We will use diplomacy, negotiations and legal reforms where necessary to make entry into foreign markets smooth for those who want to do it,” he said.

The Premier also challenged all firms to employ energy conservation methods in their businesses to mitigate the spiralling costs that were impacting negatively on all sectors of the economy.

“Even as the government works to find a lasting solution, I urge all companies to ensure that they are energy efficient,” he added.

Mr Odinga who spoke during the commissioning of a new cement mill at the East African Portland Cement Company (EAPCC), called on cement-manufacturers in the country to look for markets outside the borders where there was huge demand for cement.

Observing that neighbouring countries such as Southern Sudan, Rwanda and Burundi were currently reconstructing their nations which have been ravage by years of war, Mr Odinga said this presented a huge opportunity for the manufacturers to produce more of the building commodity.

“We must thus not only target the Kenyan market but that of the region in general for the export market into the neighbouring countries is vast and there is all reason for Kenya to strategies to service this market,” he pointed out.

He said Kenya was endowed with vast cement raw materials, which should be harnessed to establish many cement plants in various locations in the country and urged cement companies to scale up their operations to meet the growing demand.

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“I challenge the EAPCC, Bamburi and Athi River cement companies to adopt a 24-hour working arrangement to cope with the demand,” he said while pointing out that the country required 20 million tonnes of cement per year against a production of 5 million tonnes.

At the same time, Mr Odinga urged other players to join the industry to take advantage of the vibrancy of the building and construction industry in the country and the region.

“Kenya is currently witnessing an upsurge of investment proposals from companies interested in manufacturing of cement in the country, a pointer of the strategic position that the country commands in the building and construction industry in this region,” he said.

The Prime Minister lauded EAPCC for commissioning its new mill saying the move was timely and pointed out that by scaling up operations, the cement companies would reduce the cost of transporting cement, which is currently only manufactured in Athi River and Mombasa.

The mill will enable the Athi-River-based firm to double its capacity from 700,000 tonnes to 1,400,000 tonnes per annum.

Speaking at the event, Industrialisation Minister Henry Kosgey said the new mill would help East African Portland to significantly increase its market share from the current 30 per cent.

“You will need to strategise to expand and open up new production facilities in areas where raw material deposits and associated infrastructure make manufacture of cement viable,” he advised.

Mr Kosgey, under whose docket EAPCC falls, hailed the company for its financial performance which saw it record a turnover increase of 125 per cent to stand at Sh7.2 billion for the year ended June 2008.

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