By ZBC Reporters
ZIMBABWE’S metal industry has been described as a sleeping giant that needs to be awakened in line with the country’s industrialisation agenda.
This came out at the Metal Casting and Engineering Summit that kicked off this Thursday in Harare, with the academia on board.
Zimbabwe’s past economic boom was associated with the prowess of the steel and mining industry as it used to stimulate unlimited downward and upward economic linkages, hence the concern over the current state of affairs.
It is against this background that academia and industry are coming together to reawaken the industry for the benefit of the economy.
The ongoing summit, organised by the Zimbabwe Institute of Foundries and the Harare Institute of Technology, is exploring the digital transformation of metal casting processes towards sustainable industrialisation of Zimbabwe through the commercialisation of technology.
“As academia, we play a very pivotal role in Zimbabwe’s economic development journey and there is a missing link between us and the industry, hence we are here to synchronise and operate as a seamless unit in bringing solutions that advance the economy. As at the present, we are lagging despite the huge potential we have,” said HIT Pro-Vice Chancellor, Dr Talon Garikai.
The need to breakdown the complexities involved in the processing of metals and minerals has created the need for the convergence of the country’s academia and industry to strengthen Zimbabwe’s resolve in driving the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
Meanwhile, the industrial sector has revealed that the country’s failure to value-add iron ore and ferrochrome to produce steel has resulted in the economy losing over US$1billion annually.
An emerging and industrialising nation in Zimbabwe’s mould requires a robust steel industry to anchor its infrastructure development projects of building roads and dams.
Despite its rich natural endowment with ferrochrome, iron ore and coal, the demise of steel giant ZiscoSteel has seen the country losing billions of dollars through imports to sustain its industrial development agenda.
“Steel imports as we speak are to the tune of over US$1 billion yearly on the basis that we no longer have vibrant steel. The industry was dominated by Ziscosteel and now as a country, we are forced to import to supply the market. As Zimbabwe is pursuing a serious infrastructure roadmap, we have consumed a lot of steel products so the onus is to develop our industry,” said Wilfred Motsi , Projects Manager at Dinson Iron and Steel.
The fact that Zimbabwe’s proximity to the key materials along the Great Dyke makes it a low-cost producer of steel among its peers globally could count for nothing as failure to beneficiate is coming at a huge cost to the economy.
“The mining industry is not doing justice in terms of beneficiation as we are losing maximum revenue from export raw minerals and in respect of steel, raw ferrochrome has found its way out of the country without benefiting the nation in terms of foreign currency and employment creation,” explained the Chief Executive Officer of Simbi Alloy, Patricia Mutombgwera.
Of late, Zimbabwe’s steel industry has been recycling scrap metal, with a handful of companies playing a leading role.
The government’s industrial agenda will be boosted by increased investments in value addition and beneficiation of the country’s mineral ores as new players such as Chinese steel giant, Tsingshan Holdings have set base in the Midlands Province with plans to produce the cheapest stainless steel in the World.
Speaking to ZBC News, Ambassador Christopher Mutsvangwa, who played a key role in courting Tsingshan, gave a well-knit economic account of what Zimbabwe will benefit from this metal value addition project in Manhize area of Mvuma.
“The Tsingshan project has placed Zimbabwe on the radar and it is giving the country the ability to compete against the world in the steel industry, owing to its mineral resources that have attracted the world’s biggest steel producer to its doorstep,” he said.
For Ambassador Mutsvangwa, the Manhize Steel Project is only the beginning, as Zimbabwe pushes for beneficiation of the country’s steel sector, which is critical for the construction industry and revitalisation of National Railways of Zimbabwe.
“The steel industry’s economic multiplier effect can not be overemphasised, as well as its import substitution effect and that means Zimbabwe is well poised for growth very soon,” he added.
The re-awakening of the steel industry is expected to give the right impetus to the implementation of National Development Strategy One in Zimbabwe’s development matrix.