Lafarge Africa Plc is investing 7.3 million swiss francs to modernize production facilities at its Ewekoro plant. This is part of ongoing efforts to build on its current credential as an environmentally friendly and sustainable company while maintaining a drive for strong financial performance in a tough year.
Country Chief Executive Officer, Khaled El Dokani, said in an interview that the upgrade of the plant, which will require a production stoppage for six months, will eliminate almost completely, dust emissions from the production line. LafargeHolcim, the world’s biggest building materials company, is a leader in the drive to reduce dust emissions, often a byproduct of cement manufacturing.
”At Lafarge, we always take the decisions that serve the environment and our host community best, even though it comes at significant cost,” El Dokani said. To compensate for the production stoppage on the Ewekoro line, El Dokani explained that the company will increase production on other lines. Other lines still in operation will ramp up output having been upgraded in preceding years.
Nigeria’s second largest cement maker recently reported a rebound in third quarter sales after strict lockdown instituted by the federal and state governments depressed revenues in the second quarter. Sales for the three months up to September 2020 was N59.3 billion, up from N56.9 billion in the second quarter, but still lower than the N63.6 billion recorded in the first quarter.
However, while striving to deliver a decent financial performance, the CCEO emphasised that the focus of the company on further setting the precedence in environmental leadership in Nigeria remains a top priority.
He cited the increasing usage of biomass, including oil palm and rice husks, as alternative fuels to power its plants. Most cement plants in Nigeria are powered by coal, gas or low pour fuel oil. Alternative fuels are considered cleaner, more sustainable, and also help surrounding communities dispose of waste more efficiently.
El Dokani said that alternative fuels currently account for up to 40 percent of fuel used to power its Ewekoro plant and the company’s target is to have all plants operating on at least 35 percent alternative fuels by 2023. This transition also offers significant financial benefits.” Based on the current price of gas and coal, the upgrade of our plants (to use alternative fuel) could lead to a 30 percent reduction in our fuel cost”.
Lafarge is also eyeing the construction of concrete roads and affordable housing as key areas to not only diversify from its core cement production business but to further make a positive impact on the environment. “We have signed a memorandum of understanding to execute a 20-kilometer road project in Cross Rivers State as a sustainable solution given the weather conditions in the area,” said El Dokani. He cited the swampy topography of the Southern Nigeria state as unsuitable for asphalt roads and therefore justifies the use of concrete to pave roads. While asphalt paving generally costs less than concrete paving, concrete roads are considered more durable and more environmentally friendly as compared to asphalt roads.
In addition, the company is exploring the affordable housing space for a sound business model that can catalyse its direct involvement in construction, the CCEO said.
Lafarge Africa’s focus on sustainability and the environment is consistent with the Circular Economy principles of LafargeHolcim, its Swiss parent company, on responsible stewardship. According to El Dokani, the Swiss multinational building materials group is the first global building solutions company to sign the “Business Ambition for 1.5°C” pledge with intermediate targets approved by the Science-Based Targets initiative (SBTi), an initiative that champions science-based target setting as a way of boosting companies’ competitive advantage in the transition to the low-carbon economy. Under its SBTi commitment, LafargeHolcim has lowered its target for CO2 intensity in cement to 475kg net CO2 per ton of cementitious material (net CO2/t.cem.) by 2030.
El Dokani mentioned that LafargeHolcim, through its responsible behaviour, commitment to global best practice and adoption of best in class technologies will remain a world leader in delivering infrastructure solutions in an environmentally friendly manner.