Eng. Muigai is a graduate of Nairobi University with Bachelor of Science degree in Mechanical engineering. He joined the East African Cables in 2017 as the Ag Chief executive. He has a wealth of experience in Supply Chain management, having held various roles across the Supply Chain in Unilever, including production management, procurement, Operations Planning, Engineering and productivity improvement at various levels up to Supply Chain Director Level. He has also held Asia-Africa and Africa & Middle East Regional expatriate roles in the areas of Supply Chain optimization and Safety, Health and Eco-efficiency, based in Singapore and Dubai respectively.
What are some of the successes of the EA cables?
At the moment, the company has the most advanced heavy metals manufacturing plant in Sub-Saharan Africa. We were the first Cable manufacturing company in the country and have over 50 years of experience in cable manufacture. East African cables has the highest production capacity in the region having tripled it in 2014/15. We pride ourselves in been the first to introduce innovative products that include; Aerial Bundled Cables – Overhead power lines that are made of several insulated conductors bundled together, unlike the traditional practice where the bundled lines are bare (not insulated) and separated which are not only prone to short circuits but are aesthetically un appealing. These cables have many advantages, e.g. better safety and lower total cost of ownership. Cross linked polyethylene (XLPE); Insulation material that can carry more current for the same size cable compared to PVC insulated cables. XLPE has excellent resistance to water, salt acids, alkaline and better strength at higher temperatures. Halogen Free Fire Retardant (HFFR); Cables insulated or sheathed with PVC having smoke suppressive chemicals that ensure very little smoke is emitted in case of fire in addition to the non-emission of toxic gases.
What do you think has contributed to your successes so far?
We have been very consistent in quality and service. We put great emphasis in quality assurance with a fully equipped laboratory that ensures no Cable leaves the factory without undergoing thorough quality checks. In addition, EAC has consistently maintained an internationally accredited Quality Management System (QMS) currently based on the ISO 2008 standard. The company was first awarded the ISO 9001 certificate in 2003 and has since been periodically assessed for conformity and compliance to the ISO 9001 standard by international external assessors. The company has also embarked on the TPM (Total Productive Management) program to up skills employees and improve efficiencies, which will make the company even more competitive.
What challenges are facing the local manufacturing sector?
There are a number of challenges we face as a company, but notable of them is the existence of Cheap and substandard imports, counterfeited products and high operation costs especially on power tariffs, compared to other potential exporting countries to Kenya such as Egypt.
Please comment about the role of legislation or policy in protecting the local manufacturing sector?
In 2013, the local content legislation was established which spells out that 40% of all International Tenders ought to be sourced locally while 100% of local tenders ought to be sourced locally. This has gone a long way in supporting local industry especially procurement from Government Entities. The challenge however is on enforcement of the policy for policy without implementation and monitoring can remain just that. Though we have seen significant improvement especially in our Aluminium business that primarily relies on local utilities tenders, a lot more can be done in support of local content.
With Manufacturing having made it to the top four (4) focus areas of the government, our expectation is to see real change that will protect local manufacturing, allow them to grow but they must also become efficient.
What does the debate of the local content mean to your business? What is its usefulness?
To better answer this question it’s important to understand East African Cables business model. East African Cables (EAC) manufacturers’ two products line; Copper Based Products: Used for domestic as well as industrial applications what is basically referred to as House Wiring cables. This product is targeted to home owners, commercial developers and industry. Aluminium Based Products: Aluminium cables and conductors are used for power distribution and transmission over national gridlines. The products are targeted to utilities in the region. The capital investment put towards machinery and technology to ensure quality and efficient production of the above products is huge. Therefore the value of local content is paramount to ensure the company remains competitive. The quality and capacity at hand is undisputed therefore all that local industries ask is Government support.
Please comment on local content as a solution for unemployment?
It goes without saying that the unemployment pandemic that plagues our country can only be solved by the growth and thriving of local industry. If we remain a heavily importing economy then what we do is simply export employment opportunity to the countries we import from. If industry is supported and one of the sure ways is by enforcing the local content agenda then the unemployment issue will some reprieve.
What are some of the areas that you would like to see covered in the local content regulations being drafted for the future?
It is a fact that manufacturing industry in the developed world and in Asia was once small and inefficient. It took governments in those countries to protect and allow them to grow and become efficient. It is also a fact that some countries offer their industry export compensation thus tilting the playing field in their industry’s favour. The Kenya Government needs to recognize the role played by local industry in employment creation and do the following; Tax consideration to local manufactures and levy sufficient duty on imports to ensure the local advantage is protected. Secondly, the Government needs to clamp down on substandard imports and counterfeits. Ensure overall protection and allow local industries to grow and become efficient.
Do you think that ring fencing through legislation will help in employment creation in your industry? How will it help?
Yes, most definitely. If all government procurement for cables and conductors is directed to local industries, this will mean increased production, increased production shifts and subsequently increased staff count.
How can local content regulations and laws be used to spur growth in industries, promote capacity development and skills transfer?
Industry in Kenya only needs the right business environment to thrive. The local industry is aware of its limitation; however, its potential hasn’t been fully utilized and its by the enforcement of the local content that the full potential can be realized.
The 40% local content policy in government procurement, has it been a case of success so far in the manufacturing industry and your sector in specific?
On a scale of 1 to 10 I would give its success a 7, it’s surely taken off well and our capacity utilization in the Aluminium plant which primarily relies on government tenders has grown 3 fold, but more needs to be done in the monitoring and evaluation to ensure the good it’s intended to bring is fully maximized.