Scrap metal in Kenya
According to the Kenya Association of Manufacturers, Kenya’s metal sector makes basic downstream products and the majority of items are imported. These imported metal and steel products once installed are vandalised and resold to the jua kali (informal) sector as scrap. A ban on scrap metal trade, it says, would affect the livelihood of half of the 800 members of Nairobi county’s jua kali workers.
Statistics indicate that the global market for ferrous scrap has been growing at an average of 5% per annum over the past 12 years, making it difficult for most nations to stem the wanton destruction of road furniture and infrastructure.
Kenya is not alone in reviewing its scrap metal laws. China’s announcement in November 2013 that it had simplified scrap metal import procedures and was no longer subjecting importers to licensing requirements prompted countries across the world to clamp down on trade in stolen metal. South Africa, for instance, has passed guidelines that force dealers to offer their product to domestic foundries before considering export.
A handful of companies in Kenya, such as Steel Minings and Apex Steel Mills, smelt ferrous metal. Their end product is reused in the local building, construction and hardware sector.
The Cabinet Secretary of Finance and the Scrap Metal Council has the power to grant an export application if it has been proven that local demand has been satisfied and the metal to be exported cannot be smelted here. The bulk of non-ferrous metal in Kenya is therefore exported to China, India and Barcelona in Spain since Kenya only has a couple of small non-ferrous smelters such as KensMetals.
Metal Merchants is one of six companies in Kenya authorised to export non-ferrous scrap. Like most local dealers, it focuses on copper, aluminium, brass and bronze, which it sources from Nyanza, Kisumu, Nakuru, Eldoret, Rift Valley and Mombasa, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda and Burundi. Between eight to 10 tonnes of scrap metal fit in an export container, and depending on the metal (copper is the most expensive and aluminium the cheapest) it sells for between $1,000 to $5,800 a ton.