Under Construction: Uganda’s First Fertilizer Plant

Under Construction: Uganda’s First Fertilizer Plant

More than 1200 local Ugandans and about 100 Chinese workers will be employed at Uganda’s first phosphate factory, under construction by a Chinese company, the Ugandan president promises.

President Yoweri Museveni launched construction in August of Sukuru Phosphate Project in Eastern Uganda Tororo district, promising jobs. He appealed to area residents to produce more food that they can sell to a large population of employees working in the factory.

Siraj Sinde lives near the site where the factory is to be established. “We welcome the project,” Sinde told AFKInsider. “It is going to get us jobs. Many youths here are unemployed and therefore such a project is appreciated.”

Until now, Uganda and neighboring countries have had to import fertilizer from other countries at exorbitant prices, according to a statement from the Ugandan government. With the $620-million factory, the country plans to change that.

Although phosphates were discovered in Eastern Uganda in 1960, the resource wasn’t exploited because the government said it had no capital to establish a factory to make fertilizers.

Ministry of Energy official Micheal Kizza blames Idi Amin’s dictatorship and subsequent regimes for making it difficult to get investors interested in exploiting phosphates. During Amin’s brutal rule from 1972 to 1979, Asians and other foreign investors were expelled from the country.

Museveni helped restore sanity and foreign investors started coming back, Kizza said.

“The Chinese expressed interest in exploiting the phosphate by making fertilizers and the government made an agreement with them,” Kizza said.

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It is the only phosphate project in Uganda. Apart from making fertilizers, other byproducts of the mineral will also be manufactured at the site.

“I am glad to come here to start the construction of this project,” Museveni said on Ugandan national TV. “You people of Tororo will get jobs. You can grow more food and sell some to the workers. If I was here, I would get rich because I would sell my milk to the workers and earn money.”

The $620-million plant will include a complex of factories with an annual production of 300,000 tons from the phosphates plant, 300,000 tons from a steel plant, 200,000 tons from the sulphuric acid plant, 100,000 tons from a rare Earth factory, 300,000 tons of gypsum from a gypsum plant and 12-megawatts of electricity from the waste heat power-generation plant, according to a government statement.

The plant is expected to start production in December 2016 and to employ more than 1,200 Ugandans. The mineral deposits at Sukuru Phosphate Project are expected to last more than 100 years and generate $350 million annually, the Ugandan government says.

Museveni performed a groundbreaking ceremony with Lv Weidong, president of Guangzhou Dongsong Energy Group Co. Ltd.

In his speech, Museveni said the government spent more than $40 million to explore minerals in the country in a geological survey. He said the minerals belong to the state and proceeds will be used for strengthening infrastructure and education.

Museveni congratulated the Chinese company for overcoming hurdles that threatened the start of the construction, including corrupt government officials who wanted to bribes.

“I would like to congratulate these investors. They did what they told me within a short time. They will bring us other investors. These people have built a lot of capacity. They can help us also build our capacity,” Museveni said in a statement.

Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi said phosphates offer Ugandans opportunities, especially
in the agricultural sector which accounts for 30 percent of total economic output.