Editor's PickMining

Minister Nyamutoro In Gun Scuffle At Kenya Tycoon Narendra Raval’s Mining Site

In this screenshot from the video clip, Nyamutoro (centre in jacket) looks on as police arrests the errant guards

Phiona Nyamutoro, Uganda’s State Minister for Mineral Development, was this morning involved in a scuffle in Kisoro district, with the private guards hired to secure a mining site under National Cement Company Uganda Ltd (NCC), accused of trying to shoot at her.

Nyamutoro, who was in the district to investigate claims of illegal mining activities by the company, had to be shielded by her security team, who later managed to forcefully disarm and arrest the guards.

NCC is a subsidiary of Devki Group of Companies, an East African conglomerate whose interests are majorly in steel and mining activities.  It was formed in 2018 to construct and operate a cement plant in Uganda. It produces Simba Cement.

In a video making the rounds on social media, a man who appears to be the head of Nyamutoro’s security team is heard screaming at the guards: “You want to shoot when the Minister is here? Are you fools? Who is your commander?”

In the same video, Nyamutoro, in trying to piece together the facts, says “I think they called their boss, and the boss told them, ‘Shoot whoever has come there!’.”

One of the minister’s security officers is then heard replying: “Honourable, this is the impunity that some people exhibit.”

Nyamutoro, thereafter, demands: “We need to see who their boss is. Who is that to give orders to shoot us? We are on duty. Let us find out who the directors are…actually they should be the ones who should be arrested.”

The answer to her query can be found in the article that Deep Earth wrote in its online magazine edition of the Wrapper of May 2023 titled, “Who Is Narendra Raval, The Only Man Allowed To Export Uganda’s Iron Ore.”

Raval aka Guru, the Kenyan based millionaire (Forbes listed his wealth at over $400m) of Indian descent has occasionally met President Yoweri Museveni.

A close associate of Kenya presidents, past and present, Raval said in April this year that he wished to see President William Ruto lead Kenya for at least 25 years. This was at the commissioning of his Cemtech clinker plant in West Pokot, valued at $350m, where Ruto was the guest of honor.

Raval with Ruto

He has also been pictured with his namesake, India Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Commenting on a way forward, an official at the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development (MEMD) only said, “It is a developing story. We are still establishing the facts.”

Below, we reproduce that story from the May 2023 Wrapper, showing just how influential Narendra Raval, the owner of National Cement Company Uganda Ltd, is:

Who is Narendra Raval, the only man allowed to export Uganda’s iron ore?

Raval on the cover of Deep Earth’s Wrapper

For nearly a decade, many investors in Uganda’s mining sector have stayed patient, waiting for a profit windfall.

A directive by President Yoweri Museveni blocking the exportation of raw minerals has seen many investors lose huge amounts of money, with some packing their bags and leaving the country.

These junior investors have long argued that their duty is to simply explore for minerals and find a market for them. They have added that the development of mines into commercial production requires completely different resources, expertise and financing, which they – and some parts of the country don’t have.

For emphasis, these investors say that the discoveries made so far are not enough to attract the heavy investment needed for processing and the value addition that Museveni desires.

But all attempts to convince President Museveni to see their side of the story and rescind his decision have fallen flat.

Museveni, a passionate crusader of value addition, stopped the exportation of raw minerals just over a decade ago, and instead called for their processing, saying it is the only way Uganda would make money from its natural resources. A ban was instituted.

However, one man appears to have flipped a major tide in Museveni’s school of thought. That man is Guru Bhai Narendra Raval – a top steel honcho in Kenya who has made billions of shillings from his different lines of business under his Devki Group of Companies.

Raval’s foray into Uganda’s business market appears to have started in August 2015 when he met President Yoweri Museveni at State House Entebbe – the same year when the businessman featured on Forbes’ list of the top 50 richest men in Africa. At State House, the two men talked about business opportunities, with Museveni inviting Raval to tap into Uganda’s market.

Raval hands President Museveni a copy of the Forbes magazine

Unlike many investors who need middlemen to schedule a meeting at State House Entebbe, we have been told that Raval does not need to go through such barriers.

Also, Raval is a strong ally of Kenya’s President William Ruto. And in certain situations, Ruto has said how he has helped Raval on some of the negotiations with Uganda.

Raval, who has strong religious beliefs, likes to handle his business with the main decision makers.

Just over three years after the State House meeting, Raval launched his $55 million National Cement Company Limited plant in Tororo, which trades under the Simba cement brand. Museveni was the chief guest at the launch.

The entry of Simba Cement in Uganda led to a drop incement prices, and started Raval’s journey of slicing into the market share of the two major cement companies at the time – Hima Cement and Tororo Cement.

Currently, Simba Cement enjoys about 15 per cent of the Uganda’s cement market.

Looking at Raval’s journey, here is a man who does not settle for second best.

In his book, Guru: A Long Walk to Success: An Autobiography, Raval reflects on how his humble journey from the small village of Mathak in Gujarat, India, led him to Kenya as a 16-year old boy, and propelled him to becoming one of the richest men in East Africa.

Raval interacts with India PM, Modi

A man with a knack of donating to different charities, Raval, according to the Devki Group of Companies website, lives a modest life – he does not own that many pairs of shoes and jumps on a boda boda to beat Nairobi’s heavy traffic if need be.

And yet, behind that humble look lies a fiercely competitive businessman. In Kenya, for example, where he is the biggest producer of cement, the media there reported early this year that Raval had sought government support to pass a policy that would widen his market share for clinker.

Raval walks alongside, Uhuru Kenyatta, President Ruto’s predecessor

His dominance of Kenya’s cement market is replicated in his steel business under Devki Steel Mills Limited, which owns more than 50 per cent of the market share.

Now, Raval, a man who wakes up at 5:30 am every morning and says his prayers before attacking the day, has one foot into Uganda’s iron ore market.

Recently, government issued a statutory instrument which passed the Mining and Minerals (Export of Raw and Semi-processed Iron Ore) Regulations, 2023. Government says “These Regulations apply only to Devki Group of Companies (Devki Steels Mills Limited).”

Devki, our sources say, has already received an export permit for the iron ore.

The choice of iron ore raises many questions. Unlike other minerals such as tin, tantalum, among others, a lot of capital expenditure has been spent on iron ore.

Companies such as Thembo Steel, Steel Rolling Mills have made large investments in iron ore. In fact, Uganda’s National Planning Authority had been offering guidance on a proposed $17 million iron ore plant in the Kigezi region.

The decision to allow one man export iron ore could easily flip those plans. Now, the decision to allow Raval is likely to raise debate within the industry – is Uganda finally changing its position on the export ban of raw minerals, or has this decision to award Raval the monopoly to export iron ore taken the country’s mining industry a couple of steps back.

Whatever the case, Raval appears to have achieved a major headway in becoming East Africa’s biggest mining magnate.

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Deep Earth
Deep Earth International critically examines developments in the extractive and energy sectors in Uganda and the wider East African region. Drawing from the vast experience of its founders who have each covered and written about these sectors for at least fifteen years, this website is the go-to platform for anyone seeking to get a better understanding of the same.

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