Knight Iron and Scrap Metal Dealers association members led by Joseph Muraya (left), Chairman Evans Ng’ang’a (centre) and George Gacheru addressed the media in Nairobi on March 8, 2022. [Boniface Okendo, Standard]

Hundreds of businesses dealing with scrap metal are shying away from legal oversight, with only a fraction keen on seeking licences while the majority appear reluctant to register with the Industrialisation ministry.

The requirement to register and have stricter controls on the industry follows a suspension on the trade issued by President Uhuru Kenyatta in January this year.

This was in a bid to tame vandalism of critical infrastructure and followed the collapse of electricity transmission towers in Nairobi’s Embakasi Area that plunged the city into a day-long power outage.

Industrialisation and Trade Cabinet Secretary Ms Betty Maina yesterday told Parliament that while the ministry had mapped out more than 700 firms in the trade, only 91 had applied for licensing since the President announced the ban. 

The Scrap Metal Council, established by the Scrap Metal Act, 2015, regulates the sector including the issuance of licences. Ms Maina said the number of firms expressing interest in being licensed had increased from about 20 that were registered before January.

However, the number of firms the ministry has so far mapped out could be modest, she said.

“We need to work with our business people to ensure that the resources spent on infrastructure should be safeguarded and also ensure that they are not abetting the destruction of critical infrastructure.

“They are legitimate businesses but they should ensure that they are not avenues for growth and sustenance of vandalism.”

Ms Maina appeared before National Assembly’s Trade and Industrialisation Committee to respond to issues raised by MPs on the ban, its impact on businesses, and when it would be lifted. She said industries need to put in place measures to ensure that they do not consume scrap metal that may have been vandalised from infrastructure.

“The government cannot police everybody, we need to be disciplined as businesses and ensure that we are not abetting vandalism. It does not pay to ignore the people doing wrong around you,” she said.

The CS, however, could not give an indication of when the ban would be lifted.

President Uhuru said the suspension would be in place until there were proper guidelines in place that would ensure scrap metal was not coming from vandalised infrastructure.

Dagoretti South MP John Kiarie, who had asked the questions regarding the ban in the House, said it has had major negative effects on companies doing legitimate business, including many handling waste that might not necessarily be copper, steel, or other metals used on critical infrastructure.

He added that it would have been good for the government to give timelines.

“If I am a business person, I would want to be able to plan considering that they have not been doing any business since January,” Mr Kiarie said.

“This ban is affecting people doing legal business. There are legitimate scrap metal dealers that play a critical role in handling waste.

“With such a blanket ban, there is waste that has been accumulating and ends up in rivers, polluting everything downstream.”