Construction works on Nyanza District-based multibillion floor-tiles manufacturing plant kicked off last week.
The $29 million (about Rwf29 billion) plant will be the first of its kind in the country to make tiles from clay, a locally available raw material for construction.
Erasme Ntazinda, the Mayor of Nyanza District, told The New Times that; "Construction is expected to be complete in the next 18-months."
The move followed an agreement signed between Nyanza District and Africeramics - the subsidiary of Milbridge Holdings - which has diversified investment interests in construction.
Ntazinda said that the district has a minority stake in the investment equivalent to 1.5 per cent but insisted it is a milestone that will boost the district development and uplift the rural economy.
The investment will directly employ over 100 people and create business opportunities for the residents, the Mayor said.
"Residents must have to invest in services that will be needed by the workers at the construction site and the traffic that will flock the district dealing in the produced tiles," he said.
About 400 people are also to be indirectly employed as hundreds of casual workers are needed.
"The plant will manufacture 9,000 square metres of floor-tiles per day in its first phase of operation, 18,000 square metres in the second phase and 36,000 square metres in the third phase meaning within three years," he said.
Subsequent phases will focus on other ceramic products on demand, the official added.
Clay which is the main raw material for the plant, he said, is widely available in the district and surrounding districts.
"We are assured of the availability of the raw material," he noted, "Because, after extraction, it regenerates because it is considered to be a renewable resource."
Bridging trade deficit
The investment, Ntazinda said, fully aligns with Rwanda's domestic market recapturing strategy whereby it will reduce the country's import bill on construction materials and generate exports.
According to Rwanda Development Board, studies show that Rwanda has some of the best quality clay for ceramics in the world, but still imports many ceramic products.
Rwanda's Domestic Market Recapturing Strategy developed in 2015 indicates that local production of ceramic/granite tiles would save over $4 million annually between 2015 and 2020.
In order to get more options to bridge reduce the importation of construction material, product diversifications are needed, the strategy recommends.
Clay, it shows, can be used locally to produce construction materials such as tiles, fired bricks, extruded clay and indoor clay products.
In order to expand domestic production and use of clay products, the study recommends proper zoning and in some cases land acquisition for accessing clay raw materials while satellite plants can be set up in areas near clay deposits.
According to the study, construction materials - mainly steel and cement and others including floor-tiles- constitute 10 per cent of the country imports. Local production, it says, would save the country up to $206 million on construction imports every year.