The Infrastructure Enabler
With best-in-class products, intuitive investments and crucial employee and community empowerment practices, LafargeHolcim’s Bamburi Cement in Kenya is striking the perfect balance between quality and sustainability
Writer: Jonathan Dyble | Project Manager: Josh Mann
It is an industry that offers many opportunities for sustainable growth, but only if you have the right focus. The challenge is for organisations to pursue long term sustainability as opposed to short term targets. Ultimately, the winners will be the ones who get this right.”
Seddiq Hassani is referring to Africa’s cement industry, a field that his company Bamburi Cement is thriving in.
Part of LafargeHolcim, a group comprising an array of businesses that combined employ about 75,000 people across operating sites in 80 countries around the world, Bamburi is one of its operations in the Middle East and Africa (MEA) regarded as the leading cement manufacturing and marketing company in the East African region.
“We have operations in two countries – Kenya and Uganda,” explains Hassani, the company’s Managing Director.
“In Uganda our cement subsidiary company runs as Hima Cement Ltd. In Kenya, meanwhile, Bamburi Special Products Ltd is our subsidiary involved in the manufacture of high-quality precast and ready-mix concrete products.
“Our corporate headquarters are in Nairobi and cement plants in Nairobi and Mombasa, and our environmental arm Lafarge Eco Systems is based in Mombasa, from where it champions restoration, environmental conservation, education and awareness. It is also responsible to rehabilitating all Bamburi’s exhausted quarries.”
So how has the Bamburi brand grown to become such a renowned player with a wide remit in the regional economy?
In the eyes of the MD, there is no one simple answer to this question. Rather, it is owed to the company’s inherent desire and ability to excel on four key fronts, the first of which is an unwavering focus on standards.
“Our emphasis on quality has seen the market associate us with the best products, and that trust is why we are positioned as Kenya’s foremost manufacturer of cement and concrete,” he reveals.
Further, this product portfolio is not just unrivalled in terms of quality, but also variety. With the largest selection of cement and concrete products of any regional supplier, Bamburi Cement is able to meet a diverse range of construction needs that span all segments, from individual home builders to more complex infrastructure players.
This brings Hassani to the company’s third point of differentiation – its sustained commitment to innovation and ever-growing capacity which ensure it is able to deliver on technical projects with ease by leveraging modern, first-class solutions.
“Our leading technology capabilities are the result of our membership within LafargeHolcim,” the MD explains, reiterating the collective group’s standing as one of the world’s leading building materials and solutions providers.
“We benefit not only from its extensive expertise across numerous markets, but also from its research and development centre in Lyon, France. This facility is a first of its kind in the industry, and ensures we’re able to stay abreast of industry best practices including innovative products, solutions and services as well as advanced manufacturing processes.”
Projects with purpose
By tapping into this network, Bamburi Cement has been successful in partnering with and contributing to some of the most iconic buildings and infrastructure projects across Kenya and beyond.
A mere glance at its portfolio provides the evidence, the company able to call upon a growing number of successfully completed projects. It has been involved in the construction of the Kenya’s Standard Gauge Railway (SGR), for example – a monumental multi-phase track development that is set to transform Kenyan transport by connecting the country’s major cities.
“This is the largest transport infrastructure project in Kenya since independence was achieved in 1963,” Hassani affirms, “a project in which we were the local lead cement supplier, owing to our capacity and quality solutions.”
The SGR aside, a second highlight in the form of the recently commissioned Lake Turkana Wind Power project is a similarly landmark development, soon to be the largest wind farm on the entire continent.
“Our joy is magnified by the impact of such projects and their ability to inject momentum into Kenya’s dream of prosperity, playing a positive role in serving economic and social development,” the MD adds.
Indeed, talk of sustainable energy prompts him to loop back to Bamburi Cement’s fourth critical differentiator, the company active in and Hassani himself particularly passionate about sustainable operations.
It is no secret that, around the world, the manufacturing industry is being placed under heightening pressure to make a fundamental shift towards environmental sustainability. Yet the Kenyan business and its parent company have not shied away from these demands, instead helping to set new standards in the cement sector with a can-do attitude.
“Our focus on sustainability is unmatched in the market,” Hassani expresses, alluding to the recent introduction of LafargeHolcim’s Chief Sustainability Officer position to its Executive Committee as a clear showcase of the company’s environmental ambitions and Bamburi’s own sustainability programmes.
“In our plants, waste materials are recycled and used to support production processes, and beyond that we have dedicated extensive resources to environmental restoration, conservation, education and awareness – a discourse driven by our environmental arm and subsidiary Lafarge Eco Systems.
“We are particularly proud of Haller Park in Mombasa, a world-class example of environmental restoration where a barren landscape and disused quarry were systematically transformed into a diverse ecosystem of flora and fauna, now playing host to a wide range of animals, forests, grasslands and ponds.”
Contributing to communities
Intuitive investment in responsible practices and meaningful products is a theme present throughout the firm’s overall remit.
It is not just a cement producer but a company offering wholesale solutions. In dealing with homebuilders, for example, it not only offers its products, but equally provides the opportunity to access construction funding through partner financial institutions, architectural drawings, bills of quantity, technical assistance and construction advice.
“These challenges excite me – we help people build their dream,” comments the MD.
Meanwhile, its community investment initiatives are likewise both diversified and expansive, the Bamburi Cancer Center located in the Coast General Hospital in Mombasa standing as a different but similarly impactful undertaking.
“A key element to cancer management is supportive care, crucial as it ensures that the quality of life of patients is at an optimal level to improve outcomes. Thus, having a fully-fledged cancer unit is at the core of ensuring patients receive good care.”
Indeed, this is exactly what the Bamburi Cancer Center is delivering.
Since opening in November 2017, the facility has been at the heart of the country’s healthcare system and a best practice showcase. And, in the way of education, Bamburi’s contributions are similarly significant.
Here, the company has for 15 years been running a social marketing programme named Builders Academy that offers tailored training for masons, foremen and small contractors across the country, imparting crucial construction skills in an effort to help tackle emerging industry issues, spur job creation and improve overall construction standards.
And Bamburi also invests in proactive and continuous education of communities on health and safety. Among its programmes is an annual road safety campaign where the company partners with county governments and other public and private partners, including transporters, to sensitise communities to road safety.
“This is concentrated in high risk road networks, and also include training activities for motorcycle riders (locally known as boda boda), school children road safety programs among others,” says Hassani.
Embracing key relationships
Investment into the empowerment of people is not only focused on vulnerable groups. Likewise, Bamburi Cement’s sizeable workforce benefits from the company’s culture which is committed to delivering benefit to all stakeholders.
The broad reach of LafargeHolcim is one way in which this is delivered.
Alongside impeccable health and safety practices and general training, it is able to offer its employees enhanced learnings through exposure to the group’s global operations that can range from best practice sharing across divisions and borders to receiving support from its flagship research centre in Lyon.
“Once we recruit good people, we make sure we provide them with the space to deliver,” states Hassani.
“We recognise that our people and their expertise are central to the solutions we deliver to our customers. They work hard to overcome barriers and solve customer challenges, and this requires both drive and knowhow.
Indeed, the same can be said for Bamburi Cement’s suppliers and business partners that are likewise deemed crucial to the overall success of the company.
The MD affirms: “Reliability is key, and we continue to enhance our relationships with our partners and suppliers in order to operate efficiently and effectively while adhering to the highest standards of integrity.
“Following our supplier code of conduct, we develop long-term relationships with those companies who are also committed to sustainable development. Such engagements are ongoing and in February we hosted our Supplier Week to firm up these partnerships.”
Realising the potential
Without question, maintaining fruitful relations with suppliers and employees alike will be crucial to Bamburi Cement’s progression as it enters a new, ambitious chapter in its already illustrious history.
The company recently completed a major investment and capacity upgrade at its Athi River grinding plant, significantly increasing its cement production capacity. And Bamburi’s aspirations extend far beyond this, with a number of similarly exciting developments in the pipeline moving forward.
Attentions are currently focused on building a new clinker line, improving the newly launched digital application – a platform that has transformed customer journeys by enabling clientele to place orders, follow up on their status and check balances, payments and deliveries – and expanding its range of cement and concrete products to better meet the construction needs of the region.
“We will be more agile and prepared to adapt to new changes, which are emerging more rapidly today than they have done in previous years,” says Hassani. “We aim to remain a reference point in our industry.”
As talk turns to the future, the MD is also able to outline his optimistic view on the overriding prospects for Africa’s construction sector.
The continent is home to some of the world’s fastest growing economies that are poised for high-speed development – a trajectory underpinned by a thriving construction industry which Bamburi Cement is at the forefront of.
“The 2019 Economic Report on Africa by the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa ranks East Africa as the fastest growing sub-region on the continent, with the trend being attributed to strong investment in infrastructure,” Hassani states.
“In my view, Africa offers the greatest potential for cement industry. It has the lowest urbanisation rate of any continent in the world, and therefore, in keeping with global trends, the majority of African countries have shown commitment to change the status quo and invest in major infrastructure projects from roads, railways and stadiums to new cities, power projects and more.
“It will be interesting to see how this exciting landscape changes in the coming years – we’re certainly looking forward to contributing to any transition.”