The outcry by battery manufacturers for Industrialisation Cabinet secretary Adan Mohamed to operationalise the Scrap Metal Act highlights the desperation to protect local raw materials from being exported by metal traders.
Though the battery makers have raised the red flag on illegal exports of lead—which is their primary raw material—the situation is not rosy for other local manufacturers who rely on scrap metal for production processes.
These exports have left manufacturers with no option but to import expensive metals, whose cost is passed on to the consumer. Battery makers estimate Kenya loses 100 tonnes of lead to illegal exporters weekly, creating a deficit which has to be plugged through imports. The metal is exported to India and China owing to its high demand in those markets, denying local manufacturers the raw material.
Local and international environmental safeguards continue to be violated, in the handling of this volatile and highly toxic metal as illegal exports disguised as elevator counterweights and oxide for paints run unchecked.
In recent months, illegal exportation of the scrap metal has soared as dealers, using unorthodox means, smuggle their loot to Uganda then transport the boodle to Mombasa for onward shipment to the international markets.
It is against this background of an illegal yet open trade that the National Assembly’s Implementation Committee has today summoned Mohamed to shed light on why he has not constituted the Scrap Metal Council three years down the line after the President signed the Scrap Metal Bill (2015) into law.
Under the legislation, regulation of the trade will be supervised by the Scrap Metal Council, thus absence of the body means unscrupulous traders have an open window to ply their trade.
The council will also handle the issuance of licences and vetting applications for the grant and renewals. It will also receive complaints and disputes from the public and within the industry.
It will comprise a chairperson appointed by the CS, Transport and Industrialisation PSs and the Commissioner General of the Kenya Revenue Authority, Inspector General of Police, scrap metal dealers and metal cottage industry representatives, among others. If constituted as stipulated, the council has a broad high-level representation that boosts of diverse expertise that effectively regulate the trade.
The scrap metal legislation comes with stringent conditions which include outlawing all current licences meaning that any person dealing in scrap metal will have to apply afresh to the council. As minister Mohamed meets MPs, the exclusive good news he can deliver to manufacturers is when he will form the council. If the law is not executed thousands of jobs will be on line, which is why it is a high time the CS rises to the occasion and forms the Scrap Metal Council.