Ms. Peninah Njakwe of Kenya Engineer had a one-on-one with Likina Tunui, The project Engineer at Zenith Steel and below is the interview;
Zenith is an ISO 9001:2008 certified company that specializes in the Design, Fabrication and Erection of all types’ structural steel works. The company has continued to provide quality steel works to East and Central Africa. Having started up in 1977, Zenith Steel Fabricators have certainly cliched a notch in the market.It is amazing how Zenith has managed to keep up with the innovations and new technologies in the steel market having fierce competition. To gain an insight into this company Kenya Engineer paid them a visit.
Q. Zenith steel has continued to play an important role in the Kenyan steel market, what’s more about Zenith steel?
Zenith Steel Fabricators is a certified company that operates in over ten different countries in Africa specializing mostly in industrial fabrication of steel works. We also specialize in design and erection of all types of structural steel works.
Q. Steel works is a broad field with several products from agricultural machinery to prefabricated buildings; are there some products that you specialize in?
We have several products but we have two special ones, the Zenhouse and multi-storey building. We deal with steel fabricated products like warehouses, bridges and any structural steel works. We also deal with water tanks and beams.
The Zenhouse is targeted for the low and medium income population, we offer an affordable housing solution that saves on time and eases the hustle of constructing a house.
Q. It is true that you have undertaken numerous projects in the country. Mr. Tanui what would you say are some of the major projects you have undertaken?
We have done so many projects but some of the landmark projects we have done at the moment include Epic Center and Kithiki Towers in Mombasa. In Tanzania we have done Sifa Towers, Bagamoyo Center, Africab and Quality Center.
Q. Steel has been embraced in other countries too, how does Kenya compare?
The Kenyan market is quite vibrant but the uptake of steel building has been slow. This is mostly due to the perception of cost and the reluctance of consultants to accept the technology.
Q. In the many years that you have operated you must have developed some technologies unique to you that make you stand out.
What makes us unique is the use of steel in multistory steel division. We are currently the only ones who do high-rise building in steel works. It’s something new in the market and we have the in-house capability to design such buildings, fabricate and direct them safely. We have also invested heavily in machinery for our manpower to use efficiently in the production of such affordable buildings.
Q. Concrete has been proven as an important part of building construction. What are the advantages that you would say steel hold over it?
Initially, there was an understanding that steel is too expensive to be used in high-rise buildings and in mass housing. But that’s not the current case since we’ve seen the adoption of steel for buildings in Europe and as Kenya is developing fast, we need to adapt to technologies that will help us keep to the international standards. Use of steel in multistory buildings is the pinnacle of construction with efficiency in these kinds of buildings. It saves on time, revenue and it’s faster; Because of these one is able to recover their finances faster.
Q. After more than three decades in operation there must be lessons you have drawn with respect to the steel industry. What are some of the changes you would like to see in the country?
First, the quality of structural steel beams currently in the market is not the best and is very expensive. The country needs to invest a lot; in the steel industry, in mining our own iron ore, in processing of the steel to allow local production rather than importing it. We still import most of our steel which is not the best play for the growth of our country. There’s need for us to be self sufficient.
Q. What are some of the major challenges you face in the industry apart from competition from other steel players who are keen to cut into your market?
We are trying to develop a community in the East Africa but the taxes and restrictions of movement of goods is challenging. There is need for an update in costing of steel so that consultants are not afraid of using steel in buildings. These constraints have led to slow uptake of steel. High duties are also affecting us as well as high cost of power.
Q. Your company must be having some plans for the future, where do you plan to be?
We are planning to grow outwards and expand our markets further in the region.
Q. In the view of vision 2030 and other robust infrastructure initiatives in the country, how do you see the steel industry in Kenya respond and specifically Zenith?
With the upcoming projects that the government is undertaking like the standard gauge railways and the LAPSSET project, we project rapid growth in the industry. We have a long way to grow and the future looks brighter.