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Mnangagwa's govt dangles US$20m for lithium battery plant

by Staff Reporter
03 Feb 2023 at 06:44hrs | Views
FINANCE and Economic Development Minister Professor Mthuli Ncube says the Government is ready to put forward US$20 million to partner investors willing to invest in a lithium battery manufacturing project in Zimbabwe.

He revealed this at the launch of the American Chamber Of Commerce  (AmCham) in Zimbabwe where a number of local and USA businessmen met to forge business relations in line with the Government's Zimbabwe "Open for Business" mantra.

Minister Ncube said the Government was keen to have more American investments in sectors such as energy, mining, and agriculture among others.

The establishment of AmCham in Zimbabwe is expected to drive US investment flows into Zimbabwe.

AmCham will be a facilitating platform for US businesses willing to invest in Zimbabwe and for local businesses seeking to tap the American market, especially through export of seasonal fruits and vegetables like blueberries, strawberries, cherries and other market gardening crops. The AmCham members are in Zimbabwe to explore various investment opportunities across the economy including energy, agriculture, mining and natural resources.

Zimbabwe is endowed with a variety of natural resources among them lithium, which has seen increased investor interest amid the global shift towards electric vehicles to cut emissions.

"Some of you were surprised when we said no more export of unbeneficiated lithium, as a Government, we are genuinely worried that resources are being exported raw and being sold at 10 percent of the market price.

"So beneficiation is part of our economy's diversification, I will be glad to see a lithium battery manufacturing company in Zimbabwe and I am prepared to put down US$20 million for Government and I am looking for partners to beneficiate lithium up to the right stage which is lithium batteries," said Minister Ncube.

He said the Government had customised incentives for companies willing to venture into lithium battery manufacturing locally.

"We can give the national project status and those kinds of incentives including a myriad of tax incentives, right across the board in mining and industry," said the Minister.

Minister Ncube said the Government recently initiated the Global Implementation Agreement (GIA) which provides support and guarantees power purchase agreements through the Zimbabwe Electricity Transmission and Distribution Company (ZETDC).

This ensures forex is readily available for foreign investors when they need to repatriate profits or capital to their homeland.

He said the Government was determined to have at least 1000 megawatts generated by independent producers in the next few years with at least 30 serious companies already shortlisted for this.

Notable businesspeople who attended the launch of AmCham included George Wentz of Make a Difference Energy (MDE), a middle market energy company that is looking at investing in the local power sector, former North America Rolls Royce chairman and John Davies who is looking at the local data centres investment.

Also in the delegation was one of the largest Business Processing Organisations in the world that is looking at establishing a presence locally.

The service industry is interested in exploring business opportunities in Zimbabwe, aiming to capitalise on higher education levels, particularly math skills.

Marc Holtzman, chairman of AmCham in Zimbabwe, said Zimbabwe was increasingly getting recognised and appreciated as an attractive investment destination, given the lucrative offerings from sectors like agriculture and mining.

Zimbabwe holds the largest lithium reserves in Africa.

"This has been the mission of the Zimbabwean President that Zimbabwe is open for business, and it is only natural evolution that the American Chamber of Commerce in Zimbabwe is being launched today.

"AmCham is impressed that the landscape here is changing, four or five years ago this was not the kind of place you would have thought to make an investment like building power generation facilities," said Mr Holtzman.

He pointed out that despite the western sanctions imposed on the country at the turn of the millennium, the embargo would not create problems for Zimbabwean and US companies since AmCham would simply play a facilitatory role, signposting opportunities to the private sector investors.

"The arrangement will not create any problem, because the duty is just to show the American businesses how Zimbabwe works and vice versa in terms of business, what we do is to facilitate relations between and among businesses."

 Elaine French, the Chargé d'Affaires, at the US Embassy in Zimbabwe said the initiative was a positive move towards fruitful Zimbabwe –USA relations.

"This is indicative of Zimbabwe's re-engagement for US trade here in Zimbabwe," said Ms French.

AmCham executive director, Richard Griffiths said the move will help to enhance the relationship between Zimbabwe and the USA private sector.

"Having a stronger American market here in Zimbabwe is the goal, we are deeply honored that the AmCham in Zimbabwe is attracting prestigious membership, our focus will continue to be attracting the business community in Zimbabwe.

The larger our community the more AmCham can realise our vision of fostering a mutually beneficial relationship between the United States and Zimbabwe's private sector.

"AmCham is starting strong here in Zimbabwe, we have strong support from CBZ, the private sector and other small businesses have started to join and support us," said Mr Griffiths.

The launch event was also attended by AfDB representatives, and Zimbabwe's leading CEO's as American companies demonstrated their interest in investing in the country.

According to the United Nations COMTRADE database on international trade, Zimbabwe's imports from the United States totaled US$49, 63 million in 2021 while exports stood at US$9, 27 million.

Zimbabwe is the United States' 141st supplier of goods globally.

Source - The Herald