Is Pozzolana cement one of the answers to Ghana’s housing deficit?

There is a dire housing situation that is akin to a pandemic in Ghana. That’s not in question. Particularly, the situation in urban areas is severe. According to Ghana government estimates, in 2015, population growth would likely add two million extra-urban households in Ghana by 2020. It also assessed the housing shortage before the outbreak of COVID-19 at more than two million units, and approximately 60 per cent of the working population need help to access housing, while 35 per cent will not be in a position to access housing even with intended government subsidy.

A recently published report by the National Development Planning Commission (NDPC) on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) shows that about two out of five of the population of Ghana live in slums. It notes that as of 2017, the proportion of the population living in slums stood at 39.3 per cent, with the figure slightly dropping to 39.2 per cent in 2018, and further declining marginally to 38.9 per cent in 2019.

Effectively, 40 per cent of the people of Ghana live in slums. Among the reasons, apart from the unavailability of adequate housing is the high cost, often unrealistic cost of renting a home in most parts of the country.

One of the often made excuses for the high cost of rent include among other things the high cost of building materials much of which are imported.

In an article on the website, Godwin Kavaarpuo indicates some estimates for types of housing. Explaining that the estimates do not include; land cost, fence walling, landscaping, paving etc., he stated that the cost of building a chamber and hall with kitchen would cost about GH¢65,000, a two-bedroom GH¢267,000 and a single storey: three-bedroom GH¢315,000.

He adds: The estimates however make several assumptions and are only indicative.

The use of cement in construction

According to the 13th Edition of Global Cement Report, if it wasn’t for a booming market for cement in China, 2019 consumption would be considered flat.

It notes further that, even with the rise in demand in China, which reached an estimated 2.28 billion tons, up 4.9 per cent over the year before, and representing 56 per cent of global consumption, the worldwide consumption of cement was only 2.8 per cent higher than 2018.

It states also that excluding China, world cement consumption is estimated to have remained at 1.81 billion tons, rising by just 0.3 per cent, year-on-year.

By region, it states that the highest growth rates were recorded in sub-Saharan Africa at 5-6 per cent, although the combined region represents just 101 million tons of cement consumption – equal to the entire United States.

Ghana, according to official figures has cement production capacity of more than 7.4 million tons per annum. This is believed to be in excess of domestic demand, which stood at around 5 million tonnes in 2017.

But with growth of the construction sector there have been increases in consumption.

The Ghana government however, is reported to be spending about $350 million every year importing some 85 per cent of the raw materials for cement production. The main ingredients in cement production are clinker and gypsum – all imported.

There are currently about nine cement producers in Ghana. They area GHACEM, Diamond Cement, Savanna Cement, Western Diamond Cement, Ciments de L’Afrique Ghana Ltd, (CIMAF), CBI Ghana Ltd, Dzata Cement, Xin An Safe Cement, and Wan Heng Ghana Ltd.,

Enter, Pozzolana Ghana Ltd.

In the abstract of a paper by Dr. Edward Ayebeng Botchway of the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST), titled “Investigating the low utilization of Pozzolana cement in the Ghanaian construction industry”,  he argued that one important objective in the production of Pozzolana, was to reduce the cost of cement by 18-20 per cent, and save up to $30 million annually from imports.

Pozzolana Ghana Ltd (PGL), a 200 tonnes or 5,000 bags daily, business was established at Gomoa Mprumem in the Central Region, and production of Pozzolana cement started on April 18, 2011. PGL is a wholly owned subsidiary of PMC Global Incorporated of the USA, which operates in 16 countries worldwide.

In a 2012 news report, the Managing Director of Pozzolana Ghana Limited, Mr. Vivek Garg, was quoted as saying Pozzolana cement cannot be used in isolation but with other Portland cement to boost the quality of the final products.

At that time, he also said the company was targeting 10 per cent of the local market share of cement in the next five years.

“Pozzolana is an environmentally safe and a natural resource of Ghana and more suitable for polluted environment like abandoned refuse dump sites,” he added.

He indicated that Pozzolana has some advantages in construction works, as it produces cost-efficient mortar and concrete and improves the workability of mortar and concrete.

“It also reduces the heat of hydration bleeding and aggregation of cement as well as minimizes the effect of alkali aggregate reactivity,” he said.

The Pozzolana cement was developed after more than 30 years of extensive research by the Council for Scientific Research-Building and Road Research Institute (CSIR-BRRI) in partnership with PGL.

The availability of Pozzolana

While there is some interest in Pozzolana, it appears to be unavailable on the market, even though, the cost-effectiveness of the product in construction has been established. In 2011, a block manufacturing business in the Central Region was able to cut its production cost by 60 per cent when it started using Pozzolana.

Naa Ayeley Nɔbaatsɛ I, a home owner in Accra, shared her experience with using Pozzolana: “I realized most buildings in Accra have water and salt climbing up the walls so when I started building, I wanted something that will prevent it from happening to mine. During my research, I was told of this new cement in the system which one mixes with regular cement to solve that problem. That new cement was Pozzolana. I discussed it with a few contractor friends I have and all of them told me they had never heard of it.

Fortunately, I don’t get turned off when I want to do or use something just because no one knows about it. I had one contractor helping me to build so I told him I want us to use Pozzolana for my foundation and up to about six layers of blocks of the building. Fortunately, we finished the foundation with the Pozzolana and regular cement mix but while continuing with the project, it became difficult to find any more Pozzolana to buy so I continued without it.”

Dr. Botchway established that the low patronage of Pozzolana cement was due to a low level of awareness, the lack of commercially available quantities of the product on the market, poor marketing and lack of active governmental support.

According to news reports, sometime last year, the Director of CSIR-BRRI, Dr Daniel Asenso-Gyembibi, told MPs that the business was forced to close due to a lack of private investment, and an amount of $4 million was required to re-start the business to production capacity as cement prices are going up.

He said the Institute pumped GH¢1.5 million into it from internally generated funds to revive it, but that had gone down the drain.

By Emmanuel K. Dogbevi
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