By Ranga Mataire
Africa’s richest man and business mogul, Aliko Dangote, has made a firm undertaking to invest US$1.5 billion in the energy sector in Zimbabwe, a close aide has said.
Dangote is the founder of the Dangote Group, a Nigerian multinational industrial conglomerate, which is the largest in Africa. The group is one of the leading diversified business conglomerates in Africa and employs over 26,000 people.
In an interview, television personality and Zanu-PF parliamentary aspirant, Josey Mahachi, who is famed for bringing Nigerian billionaire Aliko Dangote to Zimbabwe in 2015, said the arrival of Dangote’s top technical team in Zimbabwe earlier this week was indicative of the businessman’s renewed confidence in the new political dispensation’s amenability to business and zero tolerance to corruption.
A technical team of engineers and geologists is already in the country ahead of the visit by Dangote, who is expected in the country in the next few days.
“It is a clear and firm endorsement of the new political dispensation. What I can tell you is that Mr Dangote is back.
I am not at liberty to discuss about the past and what stalled the previous initiatives but I can assure you that the man is serious about investing in the country,” said Mahachi.
She said the technical team currently in the country was expected to compile a report, which will give guidance on the specific investments to be undertaken in the country. The officials are expected to meet Ministry of Mines and Mining Development officials and various other companies in the mining sector.
“For now, he is focusing on coal mining and power generation. Cement production will come later,” Mahachi said.
Although Mahachi could not be drawn to comment on what had stalled previous initiatives, however, sources said Dangote’s team was frustrated by bureaucratic bungling by previous government officials.
“The Dangote team was looking into a lot of things and were dragged into the factional politics of Zanu-PF. It was all pointing to corruption. When people come to invest, they expect to be welcomed in a cordial manner without any dubious overtures. This explains why there was no further action after Dangote’s visit,” said the source.
Buy Zimbabwe executive director Munyaradzi Hwengere, who was part of the team that welcomed Dangote’s technical team, expressed confidence that the Nigerian billionaire would set up shop in Zimbabwe.
“It’s a major endorsement for Zimbabwe’s ‘Open for Business’ mantra. Our interest, as Buy Zimbabwe, is to support any investment that promotes job and wealth creation. We welcome any initiative that reduces our import bill,” Hwengwere said.
Hwengwere said investment in power generation would go a long way in reducing the country’s import bill. He said much of the foreign currency was being channelled towards importing power and it was high time that the country generates excess power for export.
Information obtained from the Ministry of Mines and Mining Development shows that Zimbabwe hosts large reserves of coal in the lower Karoo rocks of the middle Zambezi Basin and the Save-Limpopo basin.
Over 29 coal localities are known with an estimated resource of more than 12 billion tonnes. Production was previously confined to the Zambezi Valley but recently there has been limited coal production from the Sengwa coalfields near Gokwe, Mkwasine coalfield near Chiredzi and the Tuli coalfield near Beitbridge. The full potential is, however, yet to be exploited. The coal is high grade suitable for both thermal power generation and coking purposes in metallurgical furnaces.
Dangote is believed to be eyeing a number of investment projects in the Southern Africa region. His return to Zimbabwe comes after Tanzania awarded a coal mining licence to his group as part of plans to lure Dangote Cement, which is Africa’s leading cement producer with operations in 10 African countries and revenues of US$2 billion in 2016.
It is a fully integrated quarry-to-customer producer with production capacity of 45.8 million tonnes per annum across Africa at the end of May 2017.
It has operation facilities in Cameroon, Ghana, Ethiopia, Senegal, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Tanzania and Zambia and plans to open new import or grinding facilities in Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire by 2019.
Dangote Cement is the largest company on the Nigerian Stock Exchange after listing its shares in October 2010.