AFRICA’S richest man, Aliko Dangote, said Monday that he planned mining and power generation projects in investment-starved Zimbabwe as well as to set up a large cement factory.
Dangote met with President Robert Mugabe in Harare in a rare sign of possible foreign investment for Zimbabwe, which has been in economic decline for more than a decade.
“We had a very, very good meeting with the president and I told him that we have already decided to invest in three areas, one is power, second one is cement and third one is coal,” Dangote told journalists.
Earlier in the day, the billionaire had held a series of meetings with high-ranking government officials vice-president Emmerson Mnangagwa, Mines Minister Walter Chidhakwa and Tourism Minister Walter Mzembi.
The Nigerian billionaire said he would spend close to $400m on the cement plant, which will produce a million and half tonnes of cement a year, making it the biggest in country.
“We are sending our team next week and hopefully if things go well, we would be ready to put the biggest cement plant which is a million and half tones, so we will look into this.
“We’ve already decided to invest into Zimbabwe. That’s why we are here. Any country were you see us visiting it means, yes, we’ve decided to invest.”
He said construction of the cement plant could start in the first quarter of 2016, subject to licencing procedures.
“Depending on getting all the documentation, if we get all this, we will start construction by first quarter, we will move very fast, but it all depends on the government.”
Dangote said the investment package would create jobs and “to help Zimbabwe to develop their own economy.”
Dangote said his group would also explore Zimbabwe’s power sector. The country currently generates about 1,300MW from its ageing plants, against demand which peaks at 2,200MW in winter.
“On power, that could be a huge investment,” he said.
“We have this fund, which is a joint venture between Dangote and Blackstone Ltd. We have $5 billion with them and it’s one of the vehicles we want to bring to do the power generation.”
Dangote is the head and founder of multi-billion dollar Dangote Group which has interests including cement production in several African countries.
The company also has major oil, gas, food and real estate investments across the continent.
Zimbabwe’s economy has collapsed since Mugabe’s land reforms of 2002, which broke the country’s agricultural backbone.
Laws which require locals to hold majority stakes in all firms are also blamed for scaring off foreign investors.
Many companies have closed, downsized or relocated.
The International Monetary Fund said this year Zimbabwe’s economic prospects looked “difficult”, with growth falling again after a brief improvement.
Food shortages, rampant inflation, economic sanctions and disputed elections have added to the country’s woes in recent years.