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2,000 workers in battery manufacturing sector risk losing their jobs



2,000 workers in battery manufacturing sector risk losing their jobs

Over 2,000 people directly employed in the battery manufacturing sector risk being rendered jobless as the industry faces an onslaught from increased smuggling.

Associated Battery Manufacturers Managing Director Guy Jack raised the alarm saying if the situation is not urgently addressed by the government, then the sector will soon collapse.

“We are in a very precarious position, if not controlled we will have no option but to shut down, and as a result over 2,000 workers will be left jobless,” Mr Jack said.

He added: “We are also aware of cases of exports of lead ingots camouflaged as elevator counterweights. This is a case where we export our manufacturing jobs, which will result in the closure of battery manufacturing in East Africa.”

Mr Jack said that the industry heavily depends on scrap batteries for raw materials, so their unavailability will have a great impact on manufacturers. He said the country has potential in battery manufacturing but this is hampered by the irregular and illegal handling of recyclable lead, the most economical source of raw material for battery manufacturers across the world.

To remedy the situation, Mr Jack says the government should implement the Scrap Metal Law enacted in 2015 that was meant to keep the raw materials in the country.

“The legislation was meant to support the retention of the raw materials for value addition and provided stringent conditions under which exports of lead would be permitted. Lead smuggling is rampant in the border towns of Loitoktok, Taveta, Busia and Malaba,” Mr Jack said.

He questioned why the government is dragging its feet in implementing the law, which is meant to safeguard jobs in order to cure the high unemployment rate in the country.

He however hailed the Kenya Revenue Authority for the role its officers have played in containing the vice by intercepting trucks along the border points. A number of drivers, he added, have also been arrested and charged in court but the penalties meted out are too lenient to serve as a warning.

The country is currently facing a major shortage of raw material because scrap metal dealers are “exporting” used batteries to Uganda and Tanzania smelters who, in turn, export refined lead to Asia.

The region has two lead-acid battery manufacturers, Associated Battery Manufacturers and Uganda Batteries Ltd who both produce for the East Africa market with the surplus exported to the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa and African Continental Free Trade Area.

East African Community legislation bars export of spent lead-acid batteries, crude lead or refined lead to curb illegal smelting. However, none of the states’ agencies enforces it.

The major importers of the raw battery scrap material from the EAC include Dubai, India, Korea, Malaysia and China.

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