Brick by brick, steel by steel: Zim-China collaboration builds industrial giant

Patrick Chitumba Midlands Bureau Chief

ZIMBABWE and China have joined forces to create one of Africa’s biggest steelworks with construction of the US$1,5 billion Dinson Iron and Steel Company (Disco) Manhize plant in Mvuma.

Chinese specialists have contributed their knowledge and experience in steel plant construction, while Zimbabwean workers have brought their skills and labour to the project, transforming a previously undeveloped area into a cutting-edge steel facility.

Once a dense forest, the landscape has been transformed into a thriving industrial hub, with buildings rising from previously virgin land.

Staff housing, warehouses, and other essential infrastructure have been built, paving the way for the steel giant to start production.

The project has brought together diverse cultures and traditions, united by a common goal of completing the project on schedule.

The Manhize Steel Plant, owned by Disco, a subsidiary of China’s stainless steel producer, Tsingshan Holdings Group Limited, positions Zimbabwe as a major player in global steel manufacturing, with projections indicating it will become a future powerhouse in the industry.

The group also owns Dinson Colliery in Hwange, Matabeleland North, and a ferrochrome plant, Afrochine Smelting Limited, in Selous.

The plant will produce a range of products, including pipes, bolts, nuts and other steel-based goods, generating significant revenue, with projections reaching US$4,25 billion by Phase four.

Since President Mnangagwa officially launched construction of the plant at a ground-breaking ceremony, over 1 500 employees from China and Zimbabwe have been working diligently together to ensure the project’s success.

The project is also expected to generate millions of dollars in foreign currency for the country and open new doors of infrastructural development, including a dedicated 1 000km railway line, a dam and an irrigation project to support the steel industry.

This vital infrastructure will ensure efficient transportation of steel products for local consumption and export through Mozambique.

Beyond commerce and finances, the partnership has also brought together diverse cultures and traditions.

In an interview, Mr Michael Wang, administration manager at the Manhize Steel Plant who has ‘adopted’ the surname Moyo while at the plant, noted the project’s significance as a model for China-Zimbabwe collaboration, highlighting how international co-operation can propel economic development and growth.

Mr Wang praised the hardworking nature of the Zimbabwean people, crediting them for making the plant’s construction a smooth process.

“They have a strong heart when they do something. We brought in people with technical skills from China who have been working with locals. At the end of the day these locals are now experts in engineering as they were being taught hands on,” said Mr Wang.

The project also emphasises the importance of skills development for youth empowerment and building a sustainable future.

“With the experts we have, we can do everything like cutting steel and designing it and that is a plus for the youth who have been part of this beautiful investment,” he said.

Scheduled for commissioning next month, the plant is poised to generate significant employment opportunities, with projections indicating that it will initially employ 3 000 workers, potentially exceeding 10 000 in the later stages.

Disco is also on track to ignite the plant’s power station before the end of the month.

This ambitious project extends beyond steel production, encompassing the development of a “Smart City” named Manhize Town, and even a Science University.

The plant positions Zimbabwe as a major player in global steel manufacturing, with projections indicating it will become a future powerhouse in the steel and iron industry.

Disco plans to start by producing 600 000 metric tonnes of steel products annually, gradually ramping up to a staggering 5 million tonnes in the final phase.

This translates to millions of dollars in foreign currency for the country. The Manhize Steel Plant marks a significant shift for Zimbabwe. Previously, the country relied heavily on steel imports, spending over US$400 million annually within the Sadc region.

The project is a success story and a clear example of how collaboration can fuel economic development and industrial growth, as a better Zimbabwe continues to be built brick-by-brick, leaving no one and no place behind towards an upper middle-income economy by 2030.

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