East Africa: Kenya pushes ahead as east Africa’s paint sector powerhouse

16 May 2023

Wachira Kigotho reports from Nairobi 

Kenya remains east Africa’s economic powerhouse and its ability to supply and encourage the region’s paint and coatings sector remains strong. Sales in paints, varnishes, pigments and other related coatings are expected to grow by 2.86% annually until 2028, according to insights from Statista, a Germany-based provider of market intelligence and business solutions. 

This year (2023), according to Statista, Kenya’s coatings sales will be US$590M and will primarily be driven by cosmetic architectural paints and wood coatings. The government’s commitment to construction of affordable housing across the country is a key pillar to a boost in paint business. 

According to Rakesh Rao, the CEO of Crown Paints, the leading paint manufacturing company in east Africa, the Kenyan government’s plans to build more than one million low-cost houses will create significant demand for architectural paints. “We have a wide variety of paints and other coatings to satisfy this need,” Rao told PPCJ in an interview in Nairobi, Kenya’s capital, on March 6. In addition to paints used in housing construction, Crown Paints produces varnishes, lacquers and wood seals that are some of the best priced quality lines in the Kenyan market.  But Crown Paints cannot rest on its laurels. While it is the undisputed market leader, claiming 65% of Kenya’s coatings market share in its 2021 annual report, competition will undoubtedly increase from foreign paint majors and smaller local companies, such as Basco Paints, Solai Paints and Galaxy Paints.  

AkzoNobel enters the mix

In this context, Kenya is also becoming an entry point for foreign investors in east Africa’s paint market wanting to strengthen their footprint in sub-Saharan Africa. For instance, Dutch paint major AkzoNobel is expected to purchase Japan’s Kansai Paint Co Ltd business in Africa – including Kansai Plascon Kenya, which claims 15% of Kenya’s paint market share. The sale is subject to regulatory approvals that should be secured in 2023, according to a briefing from Kansai Paint. According to the company’s in-house profile, Kansai Plascon Kenya offers a wide range of paints and coatings, including its Plascon WeatherGuard, Vinyl Silk and Wall Cover decorative brands. It also offers automotive paints, such as Plascryl and wood finishes and paints for the manufacturing industry. It has paint production factories in Nairobi and Mombasa, Kenya, opened since it bought Sadolin Paints (East Africa) Ltd in 2017, while establishing six depots, training and upskilling 7,500 painters and creating a network of 1,200 dealers, with distribution networks in Burundi, Rwanda, South Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda.  Kansai Plascon Kenya manufactures coil coatings for Kenya, Mozambique, Zambia and Uganda at Mombasa, serving corrugated iron sheets and steel manufacturers in east Africa. Across sub-Saharan Africa, Kansai Paint runs 19 manufacturing sites, 30 warehouses and has a consolidated revenue of about €280M (US$303M). 

According to Thierry Vanlancker, the AkzoNobel CEO, the acquisition of Kansai Plascon Kenya will help the Dutch multinational to use Kenya as a gateway to the rest of east Africa: “Acquiring Kansai Paint’s activities in the region will help us to further expand our paints and coatings business in Africa and provide a strong platform for future growth,” said Vanlancker last June (2022) in a company media briefing.  

The takeover will, for instance, strengthen AkzoNobel’s market for its main Dulux brand of decorative paints – in future it will offer automotive protective coatings and a wide range of coatings for wood and coil that are some of the products currently traded by Kansai Plascon Kenya, across the region. While this sale will end rivalry between two coatings multinationals in east Africa, the new expanded international giant will still face Kenyan companies competing to export paints, varnishes and polymers. At present Kenyan coatings exports to Uganda are still significant – with US$1M worth of exports of synthetic non-aqueous paints and varnishes in 2022, according to international trade data. But Kenyan paint and coatings exporters are also targeting new markets, notably in South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Sales have been growing – with international trade data indicating aqueous-medium synthetic paints and varnishes worth US$2M sold to the DRC in 2021, and US$985,000 to South Sudan that year. 

If such capacity growth continues, the position of Kenya’s coatings sector as a regional hub targeting neighbouring countries with exports can only be expected to strengthen. 

Making paint safe

One key issue for encouraging regional trade is product safety, with continuing pressure to ensure paints and coatings have reduced or zero lead content. A ‘Say No to lead poisoning’ campaign organised last October (2022) by the Global Alliance to Eliminate Lead Paint as part of the International Lead Poisoning Prevention Week (ILPPW) was active in Kenya, reminding its government of the unacceptable health risks posed by lead exposure in decorative paints. 

Campaigners urged Kenya’s government to enact legislation to outlaw use of leaded paints in homes and schools: “We cannot phase out lead in paint without strict regulation and technical information,” said Dr Faridah Hussein Were, a senior lecturer at the department of chemistry, of the University of Nairobi.  

During the week, Aseem Doshi, the General Manager of Basco Paints, urged other paint manufacturers to drop not just lead but other potentially harmful components of paints such as chromates, butyl oxitol, benzene and toluene, which can have long term hazardous effects on users and the environment and are widely used in synthetic paints: “We want to make all our paints at Basco to be water-based in the next 20 years,” said Doshi. 

Such commercial support is important because while the Kenya Bureau of Standards has released two standards – KS 2661-1:2017 and KS 2661-2:2017 – on determining lead content in paints, varnishes and related products, gazetted in January 2018, implementation has been weak. 

In the meantime, the Kenyan paint and coatings sector is strengthening its capacity to meet the planned housing construction boom. According to Rao, Crown Paints is already developing cheaper products to meet projected affordable housing needs. Kenya’s furniture industry is also expected to use significant quantities of architectural and decorative paints to satisfy demand for high quality indoor and outdoor furnishings. If such capacity growth continues, the position of Kenya’s coatings sector as a regional hub targeting neighbouring countries with exports can only be expected to strengthen. 

For more information, contact: Keith Nuthall, International News Services

Tel: +44 (0) 207 193 4888; Email: [email protected]


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