Prof. Uphie Chinje Melo, Director of MIPROMALO.
On the occasion of the visit to Cameroon of the Italian President, Sergio Mattarella, some Italian companies expressed the wish to open brick factories in Cameroun. What appreciation do you make of this zeal towards local materials in which you have been operating for several years?
My opinion on Italian companies interested in operating brick factories in Cameroon is positive, very positive. MIPROMALO has attempted to partner with two Italian companies, Modena ImpiantiLaterizi and MarchelluzzoImpiantiS.r.l (among several European companies), to set up brick factories in Cameroon but encountered several difficulties linked to the inadequate status of our institution and the very lengthy procedures in setting up an industrial plant exploiting national resources. During the Head of State’s toast at the dinner offered to the Italian President, he once more called on increased local transformation of our rich sub-soil to build multiple economic and social infrastructures. The Italian companies should not limit their expertise on brick production which could be extended to other ceramic products (sanitary ware and tiles) and stone (granite, marble etc..) dimensioning. I hope the installation of European companies producing local materials will defy the myth that Cameroon must remain dependent on imported construction materials.
MIPROMALO has exhibited a lot of competences in the production of local materials, yet the demand for it remains extremely low. Does this reticence match with your expectations?
I am delighted that Cameroonians in general are not reticent in using local materials. The vast majority of traditional houses in Cameroon especially in rural areas employ local materials, essentially earth, wood and stones. The inability to modify these materials exploiting the competences of MIPROMALO is a failure on the part of those responsible in the development of the welfare of the people. What do you say when quality imported earth block presses are distributed free of charge to 70 municipalities (in 55 Divisions in all 10 Regions) followed by training of technicians in these councils, but three years down the line, about 90% of the presses have not been removed from their packages! It is a pity. These decision makers I think are reticent or lazy to change, even to such positive change. Civil engineering technical education establishments have over the decades remained clued to training only on cement and concrete (all cement factories in Cameroon import clinker as primary input in spite of the abundance of clay and limestone local resources). Studies have shown that using local materials : (a) has a 4.3 times economic advantage to imported materials; (b) is about 25% cheaper (compressed earth blocks to sand-cement blocks) in wall construction and 90% more ecological (CO2 emission) than cement; (c) does not require regular painting; (d) creates more jobs; etc, etc. Cameroonians who travel abroad admire the beauty of brick cities. MIPROMALO has trained thousands from all ten regions and built prototype schools and homes. It is time decision makers join the Head of State in his 2035 Vision, it cannot be achieved without “made in Cameroon”materials.
How far has public authorities complied with the Prime Ministerial decision obliging public buildings of at least one storey to be constructed with the use of local materials
The Prime Ministerial Circular of 12 March 2007 relating to the use of local materials in the construction of all public buildings of up to one storey was addressed to Ministers, Governors, Senior Divisional Officers, Mayors and General Managers of State Corporations. This circular was a result of detailed studies of the sector between 2005 and 2007, and subsequent actions such as elaboration of standard tender documents, training of MINTP project controllers and technicians of contractors, publication of technical documents, detail cost analysis have confirmed the circular should be implemented. Two public institutions stand out: MINFI and MINTP. MINFI in its 2015 and 2016 Circular on instructions relative to the execution of Finance Laws (articles 269 and287 respectively) requested the implementation of the Prime Minister’s 2007 Circular. MINTP on note 631314/L/MINTP of 7 August 2016 requested all Regional and Divisional Delegates to implement the Prime Minister’s circular, in addition to the fact that local materials are in the training programmes at all levels in Public Works schools. Through the MINTP/MIPROMALO partnership signed in 2010, over 25 classrooms, residence and market stalls have been constructed in addition to several other projects executed by MIPROMALO. All the projects had training, technology transfer and sensitization components.
Unfortunately, Ministries responsible for building basic public infrastructures such as MINMAP, MINESEC, MINEDUB, MINSANTE and MINATD still prescribe solely the use of cement and concrete (neither bricks nor stones) in their construction projects. In November 2014, the Prime Minister signed an Order creating a Piloting and Follow-up Committee to supervise the implementation of the 2007 Circular. Almost two years later, we are yet to see tender documents prescribing the use of local materials, and the dance continues.
What other strategy do you intend to adopt to whip up the interest of Cameroonians on local materials?
We are reaching out to the private sector, for example over 1000 persons acquired fired bricks for their projects from our semi-industrial Nkolbisson plant. We hire out production equipment.We are building pilot houses in all ten regions (Bamenda, Kumba, Ebolowa, Bafoussam, and Ngaoundere already completed) to sensitize the public and currently extending pilot production units to other parts of the country beyond our structures in Yaounde, Garoua and Bamenda. We are seeking authorization from our supervisory authorities to partner with the private sector while hoping the partnerships already engaged with C.F.C, FEICOM, CVUC, MAETUR, LABOGENIE, and some Councils will yield results in the very near future. Of course, we need to intensify our communication using diverse media – written, social, billboards, TV, Open door days and participation at exhibitions to promote low cost options of home building. We are setting up a Mechanical workshop to enable us reduce the cost of basic equipment for materials production. Currently, the cost of imported quality manual compressed earth interlocking blocks press (1500 blocks daily production) initially FCFA 5 – 7 million is now as low as FCFA 2 million. We are promoting projects of one bedroom/sitting room modern homes that can be built at FCFA 3 000 000 and two bedrooms/sitting room at FCFA 4,500,000.
We are pursuing partnerships with some technical ministries – MINESEC and MINEFOP to train youths in the production and use of local materials, as well as measures to increase intake in MIPROMALO’s Professional Training Centre.