By John Kachembere
Africa’s richest man Aliko Dangote is set to invest close to $1,5 billion in coal mining and power generation in Zimbabwe.
Dangote’s team arrived in the country yesterday afternoon for a 10-day visit and is expected to visit Hwange to explore the site for coal mining and the establishment of a thermal power plant.
“This time around we are focusing on coal; depending on the potential we will take the initiative,” Dangote Holdings general manager Navesh Kumar said at Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport.
Although Kumar did not reveal the total amount to be invested in coal mining, experts said the new deal could help increase power generation in the country, which currently generates about 1 300MW from its ageing plants, against demand which peaks at 2 200MW in winter.
On his first visit to Zimbabwe in 2015, Dangote, whose net worth is estimated to be over $14 billion by Forbes magazine first came to Zimbabwe in 2015 and met the then president Robert Mugabe, pledging to invest in coal mining, cement manufacturing and power generation.
He was, however, frustrated by factionalism in the ruling Zanu PF resulting in the Nigerian billionaire withholding his investment in the southern African country.
The latest development comes after Tanzania awarded a coal mining licence to Dangote Cement as part of plans to lower the company’s production costs and ease disruptions caused by energy shortages.
The Tanzanian cement maker had suspended output, citing technical problems and high production costs, but has since resumed making the building material.
Brandme International executive director Josey Mahachi said she was hopeful that under the new dispensation Dangote will be in a position to consummate investment deals in Zimbabwe.
“I am so excited that the Dangote Group technical team is back in the country and obviously with the new dispensation things are going to move on smoothly,” she said.
Mahachi said the team came ahead of Dangote, who is expected in the country in a few weeks’ time to conclude deals he initiated about three years ago.
“The team will be looking for different opportunities in the country during the next 10 days,” she added.
Buy Zimbabwe chairperson Anxious Masuka said the investment by Dangote Group fits into the Buy Zimbabwe campaign strategy which pushes for market linkages and job creation in the country.
“We are also looking at export opportunities that arise out of those investments; they are primarily looking at coal and power production for now. But that will be an anchor for other businesses that they might be able to explore.
“I urge Zimbabweans to embrace them and reduce bureaucracy to quicken the pace, so that we realise this investment soon rather than later,” he said.
— The Financial Gazette