Ndamu Sandu

Government has made a fresh bid to finalise an investment deal by Aliko Dangote, nearly three years after Africa’s richest man expressed interest in investing over $1 billion into Zimbabwe.

In 2015, the billionaire expressed interest in sinking over $1 billion in an integrated project that would entail coal mining, power generation and cement manufacturing.

The businessman, who met then Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa and President Robert Mugabe, said he was in Zimbabwe to scout for opportunities and invest, just like what his group has been doing in other African countries.

The wheels have however been moving slowly despite the Dangote group registering three companies in one-day raising fears the deal could be off.  But the billionaire told Business Times in a recent interview it was game on.

“They are still talking to our people. Our investment is not opening a shop, it’s about raw materials. The government has been in touch with us,” Dangote said.

The revival of the Dangote deal dovetails with Mnangagwa’s rallying cry: Zimbabwe is open for business in his bid to attract foreign direct investments which has been giving Zimbabwe a wide berth due to unfavourable laws such as the Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment Act. The legislation has been amended to allow the 51:49% threshold applicable only to diamond and platinum.

Business Times understands that Mnangagwa made contact with the Dangote group when he took over the reins in November last year following the resignation of Mugabe as impeachment loomed for the long serving ruler.

It is understood that the transaction is being handled in the Office of the President and Cabinet (OPC). Deputy chief secretary Ray Ndhlukula referred all questions to Washington Mbizvo, permanent secretary in the Office of the President and Cabinet. No comment could be obtained from Mbizvo as his office had not responded to Business Times enquiries despite promising to do so by end of business yesterday.

Industry, Commerce and Enterprise Development minister Mike Bimha said he was in a meeting when this paper called yesterday.

During his visit to Zimbabwe, Dangote said he was in the country to scout for opportunities and invest “like we have been doing in all the other African countries”.

He told Mugabe that his investment would take place once his company had obtained permits.

“As soon as we get things right, we will move. We are not here looking to invest. We have already made up our minds to invest so we are here and we will invest,” Dangote said.

The cement plant, he told journalists then, would be the biggest in the group in terms of output.

“We want to set up an integrated cement plant here that will be bigger than all the plants that we have. We look at setting up something that can translate into a million and half tonnes so that even when we continue to use cement, there won’t be a shortage of cement here. We will make cement available,” Dangote said.

The Dangote Group has operations in east, west and southern Africa.

The group is into cement manufacturing, sugar refining, salt refining and seasonings, flour and semolina, pasta processing, food and beverages and ports operation among others.

Early this year, Dangote Group was named the most admired brand of African origin by the South African based Brand Leadership Movement in collaboration with the Johannesburg Stock Exchange.