Cement firms push for Kenya's limestone
The vast mineral resources in Kitui County have seen firms competing to stake a claim to the billions of shillings buried underground.
But it is the discovery of limestone deposits in Kanziku, Mathima, Simisi and Ngaaie areas that has recently attracted some of the region’s largest manufacturers.
Some of the reserves are said to hold enough limestone to last cement companies over 50 years.
In Kenya, cement consumption, a key indicator in the construction industry, increased 21.8% in 2014 to 5.2 million tonnes. The construction sector registered 13.1% growth last year, according to the 2015 Economic Survey.
Limestone is a central element to this sector. The mineral is burned at very high temperatures to make clinker, which is then mixed with gypsum to produce cement.
Those who have access to limestone deposits have a competitive advantage as they can produce their own clinker, which means they hold on to a larger share of profits.
Most manufacturers import semi-finished cement or clinker from China and the Middle East, and then grind it into cement. In 2012 alone, more than 1.2 million tonnes of clinker were imported.
Thus the greater the quantity of cement a factory can produce, the better it can play a central role in East Africa’s infrastructure-driven growth