New cement player Sephaku makes localisation promise

Bubbling cement manufacturer Sephaku Cement is hammering home its objective of employing a local only workforce when its facility is commissioned during the second half of 2013.

This can be seen as a deflection of concerns that Sephaku’s partners, a Chinese entity called Sinoma will infuse into the new operation the discomforting practice of importing skilled Chinese workforce. Rampant from many Chinese operators within the African continent this practice has been widely criticized.

The facility under construction in near Lichtenburg in the North West has also raised some eyebrows with importation of hundreds of Chinese workers for the construction phase. The company has said this was necessary for cost efficiencies and to meet technical skills requirements of the project.

In a statement released this week, Sephaku said it is living up to self mandated contractual requirements to ensure R1.7bn in local investment through construction of the first new clinker and cement plant in South Africa. On completion of the operating plants, being built in partnership Sinoma, Sephaku will employ a local only workforce, said the statement.

“We are committed to providing the South African workforce with sustainable job creation and business growth opportunities. Once we are producing cement, 400 permanent positions will be filled at our plants. Through the supply chain, we will prescribe local only preferred suppliers to unlock significant growth for South African businesses,” says Pieter Fourie, CEO of Sephaku Cement.

Supply of local materials includes aggregates, cement and reinforcing steel. Fourie notes that Sinoma, whose contract ends once the plant is operational in 2013, have employed local expertise including geotechnical studies, blasting work on site, site levelling and bulk earth works, piling and security management. Sephaku Cement’s commitment to the local market is reinforced through the building of the Sephaku Ash plant solely by local contractors.

During the cement plant construction phase, he explains that Sinoma is required to make use of a percentage of local workers and local subcontractors. On completion of the plant, the Sinoma workforce will return to China with a few employees remaining for three months of performance testing, after which they will return home.

Since beginning its go-to-market preparations, Sephaku Cement has also invested in the local talent pool through a bursary programme, with six South African students having been awarded full time bursaries for engineering studies. Through its apprentice/artisan training programme, learners from local communities are currently undergoing training to become artisans (fitters and electricians).

Fourie concludes: “In making every decision, we ask ourselves whether the long-term outcome is going to be positive for the country. We have an opportunity here to establish a business that puts us in a position to contribute sustainably to the socio-economic growth in the areas in which we will operate. We do not take this responsibility lightly and aim to establish a business that will contribute to making South Africa more globally competitive.”

 Sephaku Cement was established in 2006 and is the first clinker producer in South Africa since 1934. Sephaku Cement, an associate company of JSE-listed Sephaku Holdings Limited, is a 64%-owned subsidiary of Dangote Cement Plc. Dangote has invested more than R1.1 billion in the venture, representing the largest investment in a South African enterprise by an African company.


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