On February 17, Hon. Cabinet Secretary Adan Mohammed cut a ribbon to officially open Associated Battery Manufacturers (ABM) maintenance free battery manufacturing plant on Kampala road. The plant is the first of its kind in East, Central and Southern Africa to produce maintenance free (MF) batteries. Dubbed as Chloride Exide Powerlast, the MF batteries are distributed throughout East Africa by Chloride Exide.
Launching alongside Powerlast MF battery was the Powerlast App, a free downloadable app which provides traffic information, locations of battery dealers, petrol stations and the like.
“Today is the result of three years of design and development work, two years of building and infrastructure enhancement, 12 months of field trials and testing and KES 600 million invested in the technologies and equipment need to manufacturer MF batteries,” remarked Guy Jack, Managing Director of ABM during his speech.
As implied, Powerlast don’t need servicing once put into cars, and according to ABM managing director Guy Jack, should last an estimated of two to three years. In making the MF batteries, scrap battery from old cars and solar batteries are collected, and then broken up. Subsequently lead material is removed, processed and purified to 99.99 percent, which readies it for battery manufacturing. Essentially, car batteries are completely recyclable. Even, the plastic battery casings are recycled to become raw material for plastic crates and buckets.
Due to the importance of lead as a raw material for ABM, special recognition was given to the Scrap Metal Act. The Act prohibits the export of scrap batteries, lead scrap crude and semi refined lead. Moreover, if found in possession of scrap metals from vandalism of public infrastructure, a fine of KES 20 million must be paid or a sentence of seven years in prison.
“[Scrap Metal Act] has been very important in securing lead resources locally rather than importing expensive lead from overseas, and we are greatly appreciative of the government for bring in the Scrap Metals Act, not just for ourselves but other players in the market too, “said Mr. Nigel Pavitt, Chairman of the Board of Directors of ABM in a speech.
Other issues concerning production of MF batteries such as high cost of energy, illicit trade and counterfeits were addressed by Hon. Cabinet Secretary Adan Mohammed. Mohammed explained that the government was doing everything to increase the supply of electricity and reduce the cost of energy on a US cents dollar basis from 18 cents to a single digit in the next three to four years. In addition, he added that other aspects were also being worked on to lower production costs such as regional integration, the port of Mombasa, the construction of the standard gauge railway, the continued reduction in electricity and many others.
“What is different now is that very concerted specific action actions have been taken by the government. We will not deliver results in day one, it’s a journey and we should be able to see Kenya as a preferred investment destination for manufacturers,” noted Cabinet Secretary Adan Mohammed.
Currently, Powerlast consists of about 10 to 15 batteries in its range, each varying in prices. The smaller batteries go for about KES 4000 to 5000 while the larger ones (truck battery) go to about KES 18 to 20 thousand. As it is now ABM manufacturers 70,000 batteries per month. In Kenya, ABM holds a market share of 66% while in Tanzania and Uganda it is significantly less at 35%. There are plans for expansion in order to compete not just on a regional scale but on a global scale. “Whilst we can request for the government to assist as much as they can to provide us with the right environment for production and development, with technology and infrastructure, it is also our responsibility to manage our cost base so that we remain competitive on a global market scale,” said Guy Jack. Presently ABM employs over 50 Kenyan engineers with hopes of recruiting more as they expand.
“I congratulate ABM and Chloride Exide for their commitment to this industry and the economy, this is how we create jobs, this is how we contribute to make sure that our youth employment problem is addressed,” concluded Principal Secretary Dr. Wilson Songa.