Zimbabwe: Revive Steel Industry
THE Minister of Industry and Commerce, Mike Bimha, has revealed in an interview with this newspaper that government is working tirelessly to ensure the revival of the country's steel industry, which for decades had been dependent on the Zimbabwe Iron and Steel Company (Zisco), once one of Africa's largest integrated steelworks.
Zisco is now derelict; in fact, it has been ruined beyond measure that any efforts to resuscitate it would entail the creation of a new plant with modern equipment.
What the company still holds as its greatest potential are the mineral resources to get the iron and steel industry working again.
But to highlight the importance of Zisco in the national economy, it may be important to get a glimpse of these statistics from the Engineering, Iron and Steel Association of Zimbabwe released last year: Between 2011 and 2014, 4 610 companies linked to the steel industry closed down, resulting in 55 443 job losses.
Apparently, this does not clearly explain the gravity of the crisis precipitated by the collapse of Zisco, since the Ziscoplant stopped functioning in 2008 and many other dependent industries may have collapsed between that year and 2011.
Yet many will appreciate that Zisco sustained Rhodesia, as Zimbabwe was known before independence in 1980, and enabled the country to bust United Nations sanctions against the colonial regime of Ian Smith.
A Parliamentarian recently explained that getting Zisco to work again would solve half of Zimbabwe's current economic problems.
It is therefore be positive to hear that government is still seized with the issue of Zisco, after an Indian investor, Essar Holdings, pulled out two years ago after initially agreeing to the purchase of the plant in 2011.
Bimha says there are five serious suitors who have expressed interest in buying and therefore reviving Zisco. What now needs to be done is to open the tender for the purchase of the plant and get the process to dispose of Zisco to able investors under way.
Despite the low international steel prices, there is enormous potential in the global steel industry.
According to the World Steel Association (Worldsteel), which represents over 150 steel producers, including nine of the world's 10 largest steel companies, average world steel use per capita has steadily increased from 150 kilogrammes in 2001 to 208kg in 2015 and is projected to continue growing.
Steel is used in every important industry: Energy, construction, automotive and transportation, infrastructure, packaging and machinery, and the industry is the second biggest industry in the world after oil and gas, with an estimated global turnover of US$900 billion, according to Worldsteel.
By 2050, steel use is projected to become 1,5 times higher than present levels in order to meet the needs the world's growing population.
It would therefore be critical that government marshals all its resources to get Zimbabwe's steel industry working again.