EISAZ determined to get the Zim iron and steel sector working again

Lovemore Lubinda

The Engineering Iron and Steel Association of Zimbabwe (EISAZ) is pulling all stops in making sure the country’s economy is enhanced from the current ‘survival mode’ to the viable and sustainable mode once again by promoting the industry’s up and downstream synergies.

Buoyed by the sector’s vision 2015/ 20, (sector strategy) the association has just completed a nationwide tour of its members’ plants to appreciate and familiarise with their operations, challenges faced and possible ways up-scaling capacity utilisation.

EISAZ President Austin Tigere is optimistic that the country’s economy has great potential of returning to sustainability if every sector can play its role, which is possible when it is fully aware of its strengths, challenges, and the available opportunities, and the best way of doing that is by touring plants on the ground and get first hand information. He says the association supports Statutory Instrument 64, and that lobbying the government to enact or amend policies can only be fruitful if the industry itself is well equipped with first hand, accurate information of the real situation currently obtaining on the ground and not by theories or textbook economics.

“This tour was planned to show potential clients (the mining sector) that our members in the iron and steel engineering can satisfactorily supply them with their needs. Once the necessary confidence is built among all the players local procurement would be enhanced, and forex can be saved, as imports of raw materials readily available in Zimbabwe would have been done away with.

“Evidence is there that by supporting local procurement, it will create employment as capitalisation rises and the current technical expertise flight will be reversed, this will also curb foreign currency exportation through payment of imports, which is the situation that is milking the country’s coffers of the much needed currency,” he says.

The tour was facilitated by the Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries, with the major aim of bringing the Chamber of Mines, and the engineering iron and steel sector on the table, so that they may find each other and enhance areas of cooperation.

The mining sector is one of the major consumers of steel products, so it was seen that they need each other’s support.

The tour’s sub-committee chairperson Varaidzo Kudenga concurs with Tigere that the principal aim of the tour was to promote local acquiring of raw materials in the sector, she added that this came out after the realisation that most mining firms were sourcing their requirements from outside the country, despite local availability of such materials, exporting the much needed foreign currency in the process.

“This move will enable us to assess the engineering sector’s capacity and potential for growth and ability to satisfy local, regional and international demand.

“We have since noticed that; their major drawback was lack of local demand, hence the need to promote linkages with the mining sector, the industry’s chief domestic customers.

She added that the tour is just the beginning and after it, her committee will produce a report, which would help in finding the way forward such that when they lobby the government for certain policies, they will do so from a well informed standpoint, as has been indicated by Tigere.

The tour which was graced by officials from the Ministry of Industry and Commerce is expected to provide the sectors with a clear understanding of what can be done to enhance capacity utilisation.

This move by the EISAZ largely complements the government’s efforts in enhancing this important sector of the economy. The engineering sector is also the key player in agriculture upon which Zimbabwe’s agro-based economy is hinged, through farm implements provision, mechanisation.

Since the fall of ZISCO steel the country has been dogged by de-industrialisation, this resulted in many firms which depended direct or indirectly on its operations either downsize or closed shop altogether. In a bid to revive the former steel giant, the government has recently courted EISAZ over finding a lasting solution concerning identifying takers for the giant’s revival.