A steel factory in Lira City is seeking assistance from President Museveni or development partners to overcome multiple economic challenges it has faced in recent years.
Lira Steel and Machineries Services Factory which sits on a one and a half-acre piece of land, was started by 44-year-old mechanical engineer Francis Okoch, a born of Olilim Sub-county in Otuke District, in December 2017.
However, the factory located in Bar Apwo, Lira City West Division, has been battered by the surge in the prices of raw materials and shipping from China via Mombasa, leading to disruptions in production.
If supported, the factory management argue that the only steel plant in northern Uganda will run nonstop, with capacity to serve neighboring DR Congo, South Sudan and parts of Kenya alongside Uganda.
“Shs5 billion could be enough for our working capital. We also need to expand because as we buy materials and make production, we also need to build more structures,” Mr Okoch told Monitor in an interview on March 18.
“Sometimes if we get some little money, we order small raw materials that can last for a few days because of lack of working capital,” he disclosed.
Mr Okoch said he has been running around trying to source working capital but nobody has shown interest in either partnering or supporting him.
“So, we produce for some days and when the materials are finished, we stop production. We struggle selling the products, and after selling them, we make orders for raw materials which sometimes takes a long time to be delivered to us. This is affecting our production,” he said, appealing to the President and partners to come to his rescue.
According to Okoch, Covid-19 worsened the situation as the factory started actual production in December 2019 at the time Coronavirus was reported in China.
The factory started from a humble beginning, producing mainly toilet papers and later expanded to produce some multipurpose steel items including corrugated metal, door and window frames and gutters.
“At least we had some money which was enough for purchasing raw materials but when Covid-19 came, everything went down because movement was restricted and prices of raw materials shot up,” Mr Okotch explained.
He added: “To make it worse, the price of shipping containers from China to Mombasa increased by over 500 per cent during Covid-19 lockdown. This affected us a lot because we didn’t have enough capital but after the Covid-19 lockdown, we are now struggling to run this factory.”
President Museveni has previously noted that industrialization in the country is testimony of the strategic plans and policies of the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) party.
“NRM policy guidelines have for example rescued Ugandans from importing luxury goods to essential goods,” he said at the commissioning of six factories at Namanve Industrial Park, Wakiso District, in May 2021.
As of December 2020, Uganda Investment Authority (UIA) had licensed 7,763 investment projects in various sectors, including manufacturing. The bulk of the 4,200-plus manufacturing industries (factories) in Uganda have been licensed by UIA.
He did mechanical engineering from Kyambogo University and later worked with Roofings Uganda Limited for 11 years.
He worked with Master Steel Limited in Rwanda for eight years and also worked with Musumba Steel in Burundi for seven years.
Currently, Chinese manufacturers rely on Mr Okoch to install all their machines in African countries.