NIGERIAN billionaire Aliko Dangote has rekindled his love for Zimbabwe after almost three years since he turned his back on the southern African country due to bureaucracy and corruption.
Dangote, who visited the country in 2015 and expressed interest in power generation, coal mining and cement production, is expected in Zimbabwe in the next few weeks to tie loose ends to investment deals which were stalled by former president Robert Mugabe’s administration.
On Monday, Dangote sent a team of geologists led by Norash Kumar to explore coal mining opportunities in Hwange in preparation for setting up a thermal power plant.
Businesswoman Josey Mahachi, who was instrumental in bringing Africa’s richest man to Zimbabwe, said she was confident that Dangote’s multi-million dollar deals would come to fruition under President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s new administration.
“With the new dispensation, things are going to move on smoothly,” she told The Financial Gazette.
Mnangagwa, who replaced Mugabe in November last year after a military intervention, plans to revive one of the world’s worst-performing economies through engagement with other nations and foreign investors.
Since taking office, Mnangagwa has focused on improving investor confidence to help fix the country’s economy and was last week in China on a five-day State visit, his first outside Africa since coming to power in November last year. He met with Chinese President Xi Jinping and other Chinese officials.
Kumar, who was expected to hold meetings with the President on Tuesday, said his boss had great plans for Zimbabwe.
“This time we are looking for coal,” he said, adding that the Dangote Group’s total investment in the mining sector will “depend on the mineral potential that we are looking for”.
Dangote, whose net worth is estimated to be around $14,1 billion by Forbes Magazine, is consolidating his cement business in sub-Saharan Africa, and there are indications that he plans to build five new factories this year.
The plants, which are at various stages of construction, will add about 13,5 million metric tonnes of cement per annum to existing capacity when completed.
The on-going projects, which highlight continuity of the company’s pan-African expansion drive, include the 1,5 million metric tonnes Zambian plant, Tanzania’s 1,5 million metric tonnes project, South Africa’s three million metric tonnes cement plant, and a 1,5 million metric tonnes capacity plant in the Republic of Congo and Gabon.
In February, Dangote Cement Plc revived plans for a share sale in London that could raise about $1 billion.
Market experts said fresh capital would enable Dangote Cement to fund expansion plans in sub-Saharan Africa and broaden its base of investors.
The company sees London as a more favourable place to attract about $1 billion than in its home base of Lagos, Nigeria’s commercial capital, where no company has raised more offering than Starcomms Plc’s $796 million from in an initial public offering in 2008.