Zimbabwe’s engineering, iron and steel industry requires at least US$10 million for retooling to boost operational capacity to match the anticipated vibrancy of the sector to emerge once the new US$1,5 billion steel plant in Manhize comes on stream.
A Chinese firm, Dinson Iron and Steel Company (Disco), which is owned by Tshingshan Holdings Group Limited — one of the world’s largest stainless steel producers, is constructing the US$1,5 billion integrated steel plant in Manhize near Mvuma.
The project, touted to be Africa’s largest integrated steel plant, is expected to be commissioned next month if everything goes as scheduled.
Disco has announced under the first phase of production, the steel works will be producing 600 000 tonnes after which output will gradually increase to 1,2 million tonnes in the second phase and 2,4 million tonnes in the next phase and thus quenching the local engineering, iron and steel industry.
Following the closure of Zisco, once the biggest steel plant north of Limpopo in 2008 due to mismanagement and at the height of hyperinflation era, Zimbabwe is presently spending US$1 billion annually importing steel and related products from countries such as South Africa, India and China.
At present, the country consumes 1,5 million tonnes of steel per annum.
In an interview last week, Engineering, Iron and Steel Association of Zimbabwe (EISAZ) secretary general, Matthias Ruziwa, said the issue of antiquated machinery and equipment has been a major cause for concern over the past few years.
“If you go into the industry, you will obviously notice that most of the equipment and machinery being used are almost over 30 years of age, and CZI (Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries) has repeatedly said this in its annual manufacturing sector survey report that industry need new equipment.
“That also dovetails with the requirements of the 4th Industrial Revolution, so digital transformation is very key towards resuscitation or revival of this sector especially in light of the coming of Disco.
“Going by statistics that we have in other value chains, for a start, an amount not less than US$10 million for this sector (engineering, iron and steel) might be reasonable,” he said.
“And the industry value chain has had some of assistance to the tune of US$10 million from the Government through the Ministry of Finance, Economic Development and Investment Promotion, so we are equally of the view that if we get an amount of that range, it should really assist in terms of bringing in new equipment and machinery.”
Ruziwa said last year they launched the EISAZ sector strategy running up to 2026 with a view of guiding players in the industry towards boosting operational capacity, production efficiency and employment creation in light of the imminent opening of Disco.
“Remember we launched a sector strategy on the 22nd of May 2022, so we have actually put in place a strategic leadership association known as the Strategic Leadership Association for the Zimbabwe Engineering, Iron and Steel Industry (SLAZEISI).
“This is a strategic leadership association for Zimbabwe’s engineering, iron and steel industry and the strategies being pursued include strengthening of support and sector representation.
“We are also looking at the creation of a dedicated funding facility and if we have a dedicated funding facility, it will help to fund and attract value chains in the sector,” he said.
Ruziwa said another strategy revolves around retooling and replacing aging equipment with new technology.
“I can also confidently say that given the fact that Disco is about to come on board, the sector is going to be able to establish a stable and sufficient local production capacity for basic iron and steel products.
“The sector currently is importing 90 percent of all key raw materials. So, if we have the expected raw materials from local suppliers like Disco, I can safely say we are going to be able to do away with spending US$1 billion+ per year importing steel and related products,” he said.
Meanwhile, SLAZEISI will host its inaugural Annual Business Leadership Summit in Victoria Falls later this month.
“SLAZEISI is hosting its inaugural Annual Business Leadership Summit at Elephant Hills in Victoria Falls from the 19th to the 22nd of November 2023.
“This event is not exclusive to the engineering, iron and steel sector, but brings a diversified array of speakers and delegates from across all sectors of the economy.
“Participants include representation from the Government, the private sector, state-owned enterprises, industry regulators and the academic fraternity.
“This Business Leadership Summit also feeds into the country’s development agenda, through its theme, ‘Shaping the future of business leaders in Zimbabwe towards the achievement of national aspirations.’
“Thematic areas in focus during the summit include deliberations on emerging leadership and corporate governance trends, the role of women in leadership, value chains for national development, energy sustainability and an assessment of the status of Zimbabwe’s manufacturing sector,” he said.