Oftentimes, Rwandan estate developers and individual property owners attribute limited supply of affordable housing to a lack of construction materials in Rwanda. They have also on various occasions complained of high costs involved in importing.
However, according to the country’s largest producer of clay-based construction products, Ruliba Clays Limited; the outcry is false. The construction materials’ producer says that there is enough supply to quench any demands that Rwanda’s property developers may have.
Besides cement and metallic materials needed in the process of constructing, the rest of the materials needed to for instance construct a house from roof, walls and floor are available locally and all required bulk can be produced by Ruliba. “We produce highest quality products. And since they are manufactured in Rwanda and by Rwandans, we have a correct understanding of market needs,” Alex Bingwa, the Operations Manager of Ruliba noted. He added that the products have been tested over time and proven to be strongest at providing the right quality of construction materials for Rwanda’s construction needs. The company which has been producing ceramics since 1988 has in the recent past diversified its products to provide all required materials in construction and with the highest quality possible while at the same time offering them at competitive market prices. Ever since its creation as a joint venture of the government of Rwanda and Swiss Cooperation agency in 1988, Ruliba clays has made an outstanding impact on the economic development of Rwanda particularly the construction industry.
Rated among Rwanda’s oldest businesses, Ruliba has strongly contributed to the wellbeing of the communities with which it interacts and through such, lives have been touched and standards of living improved.
A case in view for instance is the number of jobs that the construction material manufacturer has created for many.
Since privatization in the year 2000 and the subsequent change of ownership to Building Materials Industry (BMI) which currently owns the company in 2009, the number of permanent employees at Ruliba has more than doubled in less than four years increasing from less than 100 in 2009 to 210 as at the end of 2013. Besides the permanently employed staff, Mr. Bingwa noted that the company equally offers casual occupations to people neighboring its operations.
However as a company putting to use land that would otherwise have gone to waste as a result of infertility and thus unsuitable for agricultural practices, Ruliba helps put to use Rwanda’s clay deposits to produce valuable commodities of high quality that can command demand on both local and in international markets. Following extraction of the clay and kaoline soils used in producing Ruliba’s extensive line of products, the company contributes further by backfilling the excavated lands with fertile soils which are later used for food production. The ensuing lands are shared among the poor in a given area and are used for producing both food and cash crops. Important to note is the fact that the resultant lands in most cases were not originally viable for use in any productive agricultural activities owing to their clay soils that do not support plant growth.
“A lot of families have been supported by acquiring a productive place to cultivate from. We give these out and are used for farming which responds to the food demands of the community neighboring our activities,” Bingwa noted. Before making use of a particular piece of land, Ruliba negotiates and buys it from its owner but the used and later backfilled lands are given out to farmers to cultivate them on terms agreed upon with the help of local authorities.
Furthermore, Ruliba has made outstanding contribution in bridging the existent gap between the supply of skills and the demand for particular skills. This is done through contracting experts in ceramic production who later train Rwandan employees in the trade.
Besides Ruliba staff, the skills transfer program equally benefits students from various universities studying mechanical, civil, and electric engineering among others who benefit from internships for as long six months. “There are no departments of ceramic production in any of our higher institutions of learning. This is why we emphasise on teaching our local staff. And the efforts have paid off until when we currently have locals heading all production units,” Bingwa noted. Ruliba currently employs only four expatriates who are mostly involved in research related and other theoretical activities.
As Rwanda’s economy stabilized, Ruliba grew and is now spreading wings into the region
When When BMI bought Ruliba, the company according to Bingwa was suffering from poor administration and inefficiency hence the initial focus became improving productivity. “And indeed the improvement is now tangible. We are now comfortable that we have capacity to supply the local market needs fully.”
The most outstanding change has been is increasing the company’s production capacity from about 70-75 tons a day to 150 tons. The change involved installing a new production line. With a more efficient workforce and productivity higher than before, the company has become best situated to supply all local demand of its products and is currently pursuing regional markets creating more demand first in the East African Community and later spread further. In the pursuit of regional markets, Ruliba has in the recent past opened sales shops in Rubavu and Cyangugu targeting the Goma and Bukavu markets of the Democratic Republic of Congo respectively.
The sales points were similarly opened in efforts to increase availability of the company’s products in other areas of Rwanda besides Kigali. In similar efforts, Ruliba currently owns a sales shop in Kampala of Uganda and plans are underway to secure a similar place in Tanzania. According to the company’s management, the growth of Rwanda’s economy and the stability that habce been enjoyed until now has positively impacted Ruliba’s output.For instance, the company’s turnover has increased from less than Rfw500million in early 2000s to over 1.6billion in 2013. Exports into the region accounted for more than 10 percent of the total turnover.
Owing to the promise of sustained growth that the Rwandan economy presents, Ruliba envisions to more than double its turnover by 2015 with projections of Rwf3.3billion. Targets for 2014 forecast an annual turnover of Rwf2.5billion. From the current 10 percent that they occupy in total sales made, exports to regional markets are planned to rise to 30 percent by end of 2014 while the value is expected to hit 50 percent in 2015.
The company was founded in 1988 by the government of Rwanda in partnership with the Swiss Cooperation
In 2000 when the government embarked on privatizing its former ventures, Ruliba was given to the private sector subsequently changing ownership to Building Materials Industry in 2009
BMI co-financed by Crystal Ventures Ltd and the Rwanda Social Security Board
Ruliba’s product portfolio includes; clay bricks, clay roofing tiles, clay pavers, ceiling block, decorative bricks, clay flooring tiles, clay facing slips, clay blocks, fire brick among others. These products are largely responsible for the beautiful structures adorning Rwanda in various parts of the country, for the beautifully paved roads and have contributed strongly in the process of constructing school structures for Rwanda’s nine and twelve years basic education.
Currently Ruliba’s products are selling in Rwanda, DRC and Uganda while plans are underway to establish them in Tanzania, Kenya, and Burundi