By Paul Ntambara
The rocks of Rutaraka Village have been lying docile for many years. Residents of the small, predominantly cattle keeping population in Nyagatare Sector in the Eastern Province have always seen them as an unwelcome intrusion in their pasture land.
Little did they know that a gem was idling in their own backyard. But with the discovery of the natural granite and the subsequent construction of a granite factory, the narrative of this village is set to change.
Unveiling the East African Granite Industries (EAGI)
On July 6th 2012 a US$ 15 million factory, a Joint Venture between Crystal Ventures and Rwanda Social Security Board was officially opened by His Excellency President Paul Kagame.
Built on 72 hectares of land, the Building Materials Investments (BMI) owned factory is the largest in the region. Its construction follows a visit by the President of the Union Stone Company in Beijing China in July 2007 where he expressed his desire to see a similar facility established in Rwanda.
The factory has taken about two years to construct. Partners in the project have invested a total of $13m of which $9.5m is equity and $3.5m is debt financing from Rwanda Development Bank (BRD). Additional $2mil is planned to be invested in marble, cobblestone equipment and water treatment, totalling to $15milion.
Speaking during the inauguration of the plant, President Kagame reiterated the importance government attaches to industrial development. He noted that in addition to generating employment opportunities, industries make it possible to cut down the volumes of imported goods that can be produced locally.
The President said that the Investment by crystal ventures and RSSB should act as a catalyst for further investment. He noted that the machinery installed at the factory will be a vital tool in harnessing gems like marble that can be found in different parts of the country.
President Kagame called on factory owners to exploit the local and regional market by setting reasonable prices for their products.
The chairman of the Board of Directors of EAGI, Afrique Ramba, said the factory has a competitive advantage against others in the region because it is the biggest and has the ability to produce customized granite tiles in a short period.
Impact on the economy, community
Talking about the overall impact of the factory on the economy and community, the Chief Executive Officer of Crystal Ventures, John Bosco Birungi, noted that the EAGI will play a key role in import substitution and export promotion earning the country the much needed foreign exchange and reducing the trade balance deficit.
The factory created over 200 employment opportunities during construction. EAGI currently employs over 20 local skilled staff and over 130 semi-skilled staff who are working closely with Chinese engineers and technicians to ensure knowledge transfer and ensure sustainability after handover by Union Stone on expiry of their 2-year contract.
Vedaste Nsekanabo, 23, a machine operator at the factory noted that he has benefited from the training offered by the Chinese Engineers. Assured of a monthly income, Nsekanabo said that he can now look into the future with optimism.
“I now have a job and skills, I want to learn as much as I can from the Chinese experts, I want to grow with the factory,” he noted.
EAGI is investing in the construction of a power line, road network and water line. EAGI intends to set up a water treatment plant at Umuvumba River so that the community can benefit from accessing clean piped water. The industry intends to produce Cobblestone from granite waste rocks and these will be made available to the local administration at affordable prices to use in road construction.
EAGI at a glance
The plant has an installed capacity of 200,000 square meters per year or 600 square meters per day assuming 300 production days
Has a total of 20 major machines comprising of cutting machines at the quarry and in the plant, polishing machines and post-forming (finishing) machines
At full capacity the facility will use 1.5 Megawatts of electricity and is equipped with equivalent standby power comprising of 2-750KVA generators, a transformer and a full utility switch board
Per our exploration study conducted by specialist geologists, the granite rock commercial reserves are estimated to be 380,000 cubic meters (15million square meters) and considering full plant capacity, this will last for over 75 years
There are 5 other granite sites that EAGI has explored around the country including Gatore (Kirehe), Munanira (Huye), Mugonero (Kamonyi), Nkuri (Musanze), Runda (Kamonyi) and one marble site on a Lake Kivu Island (Karongi).
Maximum resource utilization – water recycling and sludge products, cobblestones and potential to use solar panels to reduce electricity costs.
The factory will produce mainly three products:
Slabs (kitchen tops)
Tiles (wall and floor) and customized products like tombstones.
Granite blocks from the factory sludge and cobble stones for road construction from waste granite rocks
EAGI flagship brand: Thousand Hills Gray
Thousand Hills Gray serves as EAGI’s core colour portfolio. This granite is hard enough to resist most abrasion, strong enough to bear significant weight, inert enough to resist weathering and it accepts a brilliant polish. These characteristics make it a very desirable and useful dimensional stone. The colour offers pleasant aesthetics that make it a contender for any project, or as a great complement to more vibrant, flashy colours.