The coming of Prime Cement into the market is beginning to offset cement scarcity and stabilise prices, which had hit the roof a few months ago, as Covid-19-related cross-border complications affected the inflow of imports from Tanzania.
At the height of the scarcity a few months ago, a bag of cement hit Rwf13,000 but luckily it was at a time Prime Cement was finalising its entry into the market.
“There has been a difference in terms of supply. You get your order in two days and their prices are good, customers are just getting used to the product, but I haven’t got any complaints about their quality” said Bahizi Celestin, a cement dealer in Nyamata.
“At the moment Prime Cement prices are competitive even compared to Tanzanian imports, We sell size 42.5 of Twiga at Rwf11,500, and Prime 32.5 at Rwf10, 000."
Patrick Shalita, another dealer in Kigali, said Prime Cement came at the right time and introduced a relatively cheaper option.
Dealers say the market hasn’t been the same since Hima Cement ceased supplies following the closure of the Rwanda-Uganda border, adding that the market lost the cheapest cement option.
“Hima used to go as low as Rwf8,400. Problems began when it disappeared and the market hasn’t recovered,” said Mr Bahizi.
As it would happen, the country's hitherto lone cement manufacturer Cimerwa is focused on supplying government construction projects, leaving little for the rest of the sectors.
As logistical glitches at the Tanzanian border begin to ease, so has the volume of cement from there begun to rise.
Cement from Tanzania is considered fairly priced by buyers and industry watchers explain away this difference in cost on the large importers enjoying economies of scale due to mass production and supplying to many markets.
The $40 million Prime Cement facility in Musanze is promising to plug the perennial cement supply deficits that the country has suffered for years, and offset imports.
“We have now begun production and our priority is to reduce the imports. In due time we shall also export to the regional markets. We also have plans to expand production capacity from 600,000 tonnes per year to 1.2 million tonnes per year by 2021,” said Rolf Anttila, the general manager of Prime Cement, during the launch.
Rwanda’s cement demand stands at around 800,000 tonnes per year, while the country produces around 480,000 tonnes, and cover the shortfall through imports.
The country imported up to 380,000 tonnes of cement in 2019, mainly from Tanzania.
The cement market is expected to grow by 10 per cent, as the country’s private sector and government embark on big construction projects that stretch across different sectors of the economy.
Prime Cement is owned by Milbridge Holding, a group of companies involved in manufacturing and distribution of construction materials in Angola, the United Arab Emirates, Rwanda and South Africa.
The plant is strategically located in Musanze, a place that is not far from Kigali and a few hours away to Goma, giving leverage to the company to easily supply the Democratic Republic of Congo market.
The factory has employed 110 permanent workers, but it will need up to 300 to run all the operations.