The manufacturing pillar of the government’s Big Four Agenda is set to get a boost with the announcement by a Chinese tiles’ manufacturer, KEDA Ceramics, to expand its operations and open up more job opportunities. The move by KEDA Ceramics to get into phase three of operations in the country will cement its position as the largest manufacturer of tiles both in Kenya and the East African region.
According to the company’s Administrative Manager, Ryan Chen, phases one and two have seen the company invest over USD 55 million in a manufacturing plant for tiles that target the middle and lower end of the Kenyan market. Phase three which is projected to begin towards the end of 2019 will see the manufacturer investing another USD 25 million (Ksh 2,544,500,000) making it a total of USD 80 million (Ksh 8,161,600,000) investment in the country as Mr Chen pointed out.
“This is the perfect time to invest in Kenya, especially with President Kenyatta’s Big Four Agenda. Foreign direct investments are important in the realization of this initiative and we are playing our part in this regard,” Mr. Chen said.
Kenya’s economic market in the region and its strategic position have made it an attractive investment destination for the company. This bearing was also an important consideration that aligns with China’s President Xi Jinping’s Belt and Road initiative.
“Kenya is strategically placed along the route for the Belt and Road initiative. We therefore not only want to bring our products and technologies to the country but we also want to create jobs and transfer skills and expertise to the Kenyan people and the Kenyan market,” Mr Chen added.
The Belt and Road initiative is a development strategy adopted by the Chinese government involving infrastructure development and investment in countries in Europe, Asia and Africa. President Kenyatta signed, among other deals, a cooperation agreement within the Framework of the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road Initiative during his visit to China recently.
The first two phases of KEDA’s operations have seen the company create over 1,200 jobs directly and more than 1500 others indirectly. With the plans to operationalize phase three sometime next year, the company will directly create 500 more jobs.
“We are currently manufacturing mainly 300mm by 300mm and 400mm by 400mm size tiles and we hope to produce bigger size tiles such as 500mm by 500mm and 600mm by 600mm in phase three,” Mr Chen pointed out.
The company hopes to leverage on the continued rise in demand for tiles in the local market to transition into the third phase with Mr Chen explaining that: “Our advanced technology has ensured we produce high quality tiles across the four brands we produce, including Twyford, which has been around for a while.”
The community in Kajiado County where the plant is located has not only benefitted from jobs created by the manufacturer but also other programmes including a road repair programme and a scholarship fund for the students in the community among others. Mr Chen explained that their focus is to uplift the lives of the community around Kajiado County. “We want to improve the standards of this community by offering jobs and establishing this area as a business hub,” he said.
With investments like the one by KEDA Ceramics, industry players hope that the sector will see an improved performance after reports earlier in the year indicated that the sector’s contribution to Kenya’s gross domestic product (GDP) had dropped to 8.4 per cent in 2017.
“It is our hope that our contribution in the manufacturing sector will play a big part in helping Kenya realize the projected 20 per cent contribution of the sector to the country’s GDP by 2022,” Mr Chen concluded.