Friday 14 May 2021
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Ohorongo Cement pushes growth agenda.

Ohorongo Cement’s entrance in the local industry has been heralded by many, and almost a decade later, the company is still devising measures aimed at ensuring that its product meets the market needs while the promotion of female leadership has also taken centre-stage.
There are more females than males on the company’s board of directors, there is also a ratio of 18 women in the company’s specialized level out of 111 and 7 women out of 24 in managerial level.
At the age of 30, Estelle Alberts became the first Namibian to hold the title of plant manager since the plant started operations. Alberts joined Ohorongo Cement in July 2013 as a Divisional Production Manager: Grinding and Burning, responsible for the clinker and cement production part of the plant.
Alberts is considered to be a pioneering woman of Namibia’s infant cement industry by her peers. This week, The Patriot featured her to share her journey in the industry as well as that of the country’s first cement plant.
“In terms of my journey, there has been a few challenges which I have enjoyed quite a lot because I came from the position of production manager which was closely involved with all the processes. So as a plant manager, it just means I have a wider mandate unlike in the past where I was only expected to take care of matters in my department,” she says.
The company’s growth hasn’t come without challenges, as Alberts explains: “There are always different challenges; something that we are continuously busy with is to try to optimise costs and to also work towards developing SMEs and improving the environment.”
“We are working towards the substitution of alternative fuels which requires a lot of work, if you take for example our charcoal supply which is supplied by 20 to 30 different suppliers such as rent a drum that supplies RDF material. Which is very nice to look at but note that there is a lot of development needed to make sure that the equipment that we have can transport the materials, that the material has the right chemical quality, the right heat values and all of these things require additional efforts,” she said.
Ohorongo has also been promoting the use of alternative fuels as a substitute for coal during cement production.
According to Alberts, alternative fuels reliefs Namibia’s trade balance which create local jobs.
“Currently we import coal from the world market but we mostly get it from South Africa. We substitute a portion of the coal which is about 30 percent. The maximum that we can substitute with the current size of our plant would be 80 percent. We cannot completely stop importing coal but we can substitute more of it and that is the way we work towards adopting alternative fuels.”
The public has in recent years bemoaned the cost of locally-produced cement, with many harbouring the feeling that Namibian cement is more expensive than in the past when the country imported 100% of its cement needs.
Alberts pointed to the high production input costs in a bid to justify the cement prices.
“One thing that we should all remember is that when we compare some prices from the past, we should compare the effects of inflation, therefore the price of cement today and the price of ten years ago will not be the same.
Not for cement and not for any other product that we buy in Namibia,” she explained.
She said the mining component of the raw materials needed for cement production has a major impact on the final price consumers have to pay.
“The mining of raw materials is a very small part but then you have the whole burning process, so in terms of the electrical energy input as well as thermal energy, there are high costs associated with changing raw material like rocks into fine particles that can be grinded and melted at the correct temperatures to produce a good quality clinker. So you can see how intense the production process is,” she explained.
Ohorongo is currently in the process of putting up a solar PV plant.
Alberts explains that “the plant will supply a portion of the electricity used by Ohorongo cement which will come from the 5 MW solar PV Plant in Otavi.”
“What we aim to gain from this is the reduction of electricity expenses that the company incurs as well as other related costs.
In terms of maintaining an environmental-friendly production site, Alberts reveals that “this is a modern plant, hence we have new technology that is energy efficient both electric and fuel consumption.
“Our emissions we are able to reduce with the alternative fuels that we use. We reduce our carbon and CO2 emissions which makes it more environmental friendly and then some of the other parts of the new technology is for example the clinker cooler which is cooled by air. This is much more environmental friendly than the old systems where it used to be cooled by water. We also use our sewage plant water, to water the grass here on our premises. We treat the water to make sure it is not contaminated with any germs and then we use it by recycling it to the grass,” she says.
She also stressed the importance of SME development in the country.
“From the day Ohorongo started we have helped many small businesses to keep their respective operations going. We are not just talking about the clients that purchase cement from us, there is also the alternative fuel need whereby SMEs supplies the plant with woodchips, the same goes for charcoal supply.”
She added: “Something else would also be the brick maker training that we do in the different regions that is widely publicised. Each of these brick makers that got their training are now able to deliver high quality bricks to their respective markets.
This means we have enabled the trainees to have their own business skills to supply bricks at the correct quality and in all the regions of Namibia. Which eventually leads to there being more job opportunities for small businesses that can now grow and provide a brick the same as the larger brick manufacturers.”
Looking ahead, Alberts outlined that growing with the market is pivotal for the company.
“Quality for us is a very important topic in terms of cement production and we always pride ourselves because we can always supply our clients with what they need. Whatever projects they come up in Namibia, we will be able to offer them a suitable product,” she said.
Highlighting Ohorongo’s capabilities to offer diverse cement products, Alberts tells The Patriot that: “Whatever developments come up we will be there.
For example, we had developed new cement types when the Chinese company started the harbour expansion project. We made sure that they had the correct cement for that specific project. So we are focussed on developing  products for the market externally.”

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