The world’s largest producer of stainless steel, Tsingshan Steel of China, is angling to set up a US$4 billion plant in Zimbabwe in what could become the largest stainless steel processing plant in Africa.
Tsingshan is already operating in Zimbabwe through its chrome mining concern, Afro Chine, but it now plans to expand operations after its chairman Xiang Guangda met President Emmerson Mnangagwa during the latter’s state visit to China recently.
Xiang has invested heavily in mega stainless steel projects in several countries in the world that include India, China and Indonesia and his company is rated one of the leading manufacturing firms in the world’s second biggest economy.
Speaking to The Southern Times in Harare, special advisor in President Mnangagwa’s office, Ambassador Christopher Mutsvangwa, said Xiang had expressed firm interest for Tsingshan to set up the mega stainless steel plant in Zimbabwe.
“Xiang met President Mnangagwa during our visit and he made an offer to the President to set up a stainless steel processing plant.
“The President said to him we will give you all the things you are requesting because Zimbabwe is open for business.
“So what I know now is that Mr Xiang is busy putting together a package of about US$4 billion for building the largest stainless steel plan Africa has ever known.”
Ambassador Mutsvangwa said Xiang was particularly interested in Zimbabwe as the country offers favourable conditions to produce stainless steel at a lower cost owing to the strategic location of feeder minerals.
“In short Zimbabwe is now going to become the destination of the premier stainless steel producer of the world. Within 20 years, he wants us to become the hotbed of stainless steel production in the world.
“Mr Xiang has been to Zimbabwe before and he was impressed that our country has abundant chrome, which his company Afro Chine is producing already, as well as nickel and coal which are all strategically located in the Great Dyke mineral belt.
“What this means is that all these minerals are located within 200 kilometers of each other and this makes Zimbabwe potentially, the lowest cost producer of stainless steel in the world."
Writing an opinion piece in The Sunday Mail recently, presidential press secretary George Charamba confirmed that the deal was in the pipeline after the positive meeting between President Mnangagwa and Xiang.
Charamba said the project is earmarked to employ up to 20 000 people.
“A day before his departure (from China), President Mnangagwa met the owner of Afrochine, the chrome processor already operating just after Selous as one goes to Chegutu (about 50 km west of Harare).
“The investor now wants to develop three other furnaces including one in Mutorashanga and another in Shurugwi.
“But these are 'smalls' in his investment plans. The big one for this economy is a steel plant, fashioned after one already operating in Indonesia which employs 20 000 people.
“In his own words, Zimbabwe has all the ingredients for such a plant: abundant chrome, abundant iron ore, nickel and abundant and untapped coal for an independent power plant so necessary for such a big, power gulping investment.”
Charamba added: “But he (Mr Xiang) has been knocking on Government offices for the past three years, to no avail. Still, he didn’t give up on us.
“In that 30-minute meeting, the investor was able to walk away with concrete commitments on all his requirements, opening the way for an early start to the project.”