Africa’s richest man, Aliko Dangote has renewed his interest in investing in Zimbabwe, but seems to have moved away from his first love — cement — and is now considering investing in the country’s agricultural sector.
When he first came to Zimbabwe, back in 2015, Dangote separately met former president Robert Mugabe and his former deputy, now President Emmerson Mnangagwa, and told them that his company was keen on investing in mining, cement manufacturing and power generation.
“We have already decided on multimillion investments in Zimbabwe in three sectors which are power, cement and coal mining. As soon as we get permits, we will hit the ground running,” Dangote said then.
He was particularly forthcoming about the cement manufacturing plant, telling journalists after meeting then Vice President Mnangagwa that he was looking to set-up “an integrated cement plant here that will be bigger than all the plants that we have (and)… that can translate into a million-and-a-half tons” per year.
But that has since changed. While still keen on coal mining and power generation, Dangote is now considering investing in the country’s agricultural sector with investments in cement – which was always questionable – hardly mentioned.
Zimbabwe has many cement players with some of them including listed entity Lafarge, struggling, making very little investment case for new players.
Dangote is reportedly pursuing his $1, 5 billion investment in Zimbabwe and on Monday dispatched an advance team. The delegation, which is in Zimababwe for 10 days, is expected to meet President Mnangagwa and Mines and Mining Development Minister Winston Chitando.
This comes as the businessman has renewed his interest in spreading his investment into the country after his first attempt was scuttled by bureaucracy and policy inconsistence in the previous administration.
Buy Zimbabwe chairperson Dr Anxious Masuka told Business Weekly that Dangote had shown interests in the country’s agriculture sector, a move that presents an opportunity for the country to create market linkages that has the potential to create wealth and jobs.
“Zimbabwe needs to create strong agricultural value chains to sustain industrial growth through establishment of opportunities for processing, value addition and beneficiation and this potential investment will go a long way in improving the economy.
“The investment will lead to the production of quality, affordable and regionally competitive goods and services. This will also lead to job and wealth creation, service sector growth, and an increased contribution to the fiscus.
“It spurs development of strong procurement and supply networks, encourages consumption of local goods and services, and ultimately leads to economic development,” he said.
Dangote’s plans to expand investments into the country’s agriculture sector comes at a time when the Government is moving towards increasing productivity in farms.
In February 2018, Dangote Group CEO (Agriculture) Robert Coleman was in the country to see opportunities in the agriculture sector.
It is believed that the country’s good climatic conditions and vast tracks of land has impressed the Nigerian billionaire to venture into the country’s agriculture sector.
The group is expected to invest in tobacco growing and horticulture. Agriculture is said to be an easy option than all other areas like mining as it requires less capital than other investments.
Mining costs gobble half of the companies’ revenues which is not the same case with agriculture where only a third of the revenue goes to costs.
Dangote is expected to be in the country in the next few weeks to wrap up all deals and it will be his second visit since 2015 where he expressed interest in power generation, coal mining and cement production.
Dangote Industries local representative, Josey Mahachi said they were hopeful things would work this time around.
Mahachi said: “With the new dispensation, things are going to move on smoothly. This is the team (technical) that the president of Dangote Holdings, Mr Dangote, has sent to Zimbabwe to do the groundwork before his major visit in the few weeks to come.
“They are here in the country for 10 days and looking for investments worth $1,5 billion.”