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Meet The King of Steel

by Brian Yatich

22 years of quality delivery made Roofings Group a household name in Uganda, and now the roof tops maker wants to take over Africa’s iron and steel industry

By Ben Oduor

Durable, desirable, affordable, and on-demand! There is only one company in Uganda today that produces iron sheets that best fit this in description.

Roofings Group, Uganda’s number one producer of iron sheets and steel since 1994, manufactures galvanized and pre-painted roofing sheets, Eco tiles, Hollow sections, mild steel plates and open profiles, and most recently Aluminum-Zinc (AZ) coated iron sheets.

“We are the first Company to produce AluZinc in the region. It is the best suited iron sheet for the Africa since it has relatively longer lifespan,” says Oliver Lalani, executive director of Roofings Group and son to the Company’s founder, Dr Sikander Lalani.

The AluZinc iron sheets, he says, undergoes a pretreatment process that provide excellent corrosion resistance and adhesion.

Applied by the rigorous traditional hot-dipping process, where galvanized sheets are made by immersing steel sheet as a continuous ribbon into a bath of molten zinc, the final product is ideal for applications that require superior corrosion resistance and heat reflectivity.

“Through the creative balance of aluminum alloy at 55 per cent, which ensures good coating adhesion during the formation of sheets; an additional 43.5 percent of Zinc, which provides the galvanic protection needed to minimize the tendency for rust strain; and about 1.5 per cent silicon, the AZ coatings enhances corrosion resistance to most types of atmospheric environments,” says the Company’s executive director.

Joe Mukamuzi, sales and marketing manager at the firm, says the variance in lifespan between the conventional galvanized sheets and AZ coated ones is based on the weight of aluminum alloy applied during production process.

The conventional galvanized sheets coating consists essentially of pure Zinc with a thin iron-zinc alloy layer bonded to the steel substrate, suppressed over very low rate of aluminum.

If exposed to the various environmental conditions, the protective layer in the sheets dissolves in the rain with time, causing further erosion of the zinc below. The protection effect stops when all of the zinc has dissolved.

AZ coating, on the other hand, has a layer that essentially consists of a well mixed aluminum-rich and zinc-rich phases that offers the best combination of both sacrificial and barrier protection.

“This makes AluZinc sheets last five times longer,” says Mukamuzi.

For some time, Roofings Group has been producing and distributing traditional galvanized sheets. But the company has now launched the innovative AZ sheets into its target markets, reaching out to customers with a price cut.

“We have matched the prices of the latest AZ iron sheets to that of the traditional galvanized sheets in a special promotion that will run till end of the year. We’re not so much into profits for now, but marketing,” says the executive director, adding that they currently produce the two types of iron sheets concurrently to offer customers a list of preference.

Roofings Group manufactures about 6,500 tons of AZ sheets a month, though it plans to increase the production capacity.

“We’re gradually phasing out the traditional galvanized iron sheets from the market,” says the executive director, adding that the Company has invested over US$6million (UGX21billion) to control waste and safeguard the health of workers and the environment.

Wide range of applications

Cognisant of its ability to resist oxidation and withstand temperatures of up to 315°C without discoloration, AZ sheets serves wide range of applications. The sheets can be used in buildings, automotive industry, construction, electrical and lighting equipment, agriculture, household appliances, among others.

For electrical and lighting equipment, for instance, AZ sheets are used as fluorescent light houses, switch boxes, motor cases, and distribution boards.

In buildings, the product is used for roofing and siding, awnings and decking, wall cladding, rainwater goods and accessories, fencings and hangers, chimney pipes and conduits.

In the automotive industry, the sheets are used as exhaust mufflers, oil filter tubes, heat shields and car wash components.

Advertisers also use it in vending machines, as display cases, signboards and highway sign billboard, making it an essential product for the market.

According to the Company’s experts, a suitable chemical treatment (passivation) on the coated surface prevents formation of white rust, enhances the corrosion resistance, and the alkali cleaning before furnace ensures proper aluminum/zinc adherence.

Also, the product has smooth surface that is aesthetically pleasing and attractive either in pre-painted or post-painted status.

“The product’s shinny spangled appearance is attractive enough to be used even without painting,” says Mukamuzi.

Currently, the firm supplies AZ sheets to Burundi, Congo, South Sudan, Rwanda and Northern Uganda and is planning to launch in Kenya soon.

“Between 35 and 40 per cent of the product is supplied to the export markets. The remaining is sold within Uganda,” says Mukamuzi.

Undisputed king of steel

Roofings Group has increasingly improved the quality of its steel products and the company has grown in leaps and bounds.

With an initial investment capital of US$2 million (UGX7billion) and a vision of running a cold rolling mill complex, Roofing Group has grown well beyond its founder’s expectations.

The Group now has three branches; Roofings, Roofings Polypipes, and Roofings Rolling Mills (RRM).

As of today, RRM has invested US$8 million (UGX28 billion) in a wire galvanizing plant, US$15million (UGX53 billion) in a hot rolling mill plant, and US$100 million (UGX353billion) in a pickling, cold rolling, batch annealing, galvanizing and cold coating plant, to produce steel products that now injects US$125million (UGX441billion) to the Ugandan economy.

Products from the three subsidiaries range from galvanized sheets, chain links, barbed and razor wires, PVC and HDPE pipes, Rebars, Gutters and Ridges, and plain sheets.

“The company continues to focus on innovation. We are planning to produce and distribute handle irons and flat bars soon,” says the executive director.


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