- January 31, 2021
- Posted in LOCAL
EXPERTS have urged Government and local companies to expedite the manufacturing of bitumen to reduce the import bill after it emerged that over US$4,2 million has been used annually to import the product.
According to the World’s Top Exports, in 2019 Zimbabwean importers spent over US$4,2 million to import natural bitumen, asphalt and shale, up by 12,9 percent from the previous year. Also, Zimbabwean purchases of asphalt or petroleum bitumen mixes (up 140 percent), peat (up 51,6 percent) and petroleum oil residues (up 45,2 percent) grew at the fastest pace from 2018 to 2019.
With the Ministry of Mines and Mining Development’s geological survey stating that Zimbabwe has vast high-grade coal deposits occurring as fossilised carbon and about 12 billion tonnes of quality coal, industry experts have suggested that the country should utilise its coal deposits to manufacture bitumen.
In an interview, banker and founder of Bouyancy Capital Private Limited, Mr Innocent Chigwendere said the country was realising less foreign currency as most of the bitumen was imported instead of being locally manufactured from the vast coal deposits.
“We have vast coal deposits in the country and most of them have not been fully deployed. It’s that area as a nation that we should look at, and develop that resource. Instead of using billions of dollars importing bituminous materials for infrastructure development such as road construction, roofing, waterproofing, and other applications let us utilise our coal deposits and manufacture bitumen locally,” said Mr Chigwendere.
He added that roads in the country were in a bad state and the progress of repairing them was taking longer than expected as there were less resources and most of the bitumen was being sourced from other countries.
Mr Chigwendere also noted that there was need for import substitution to save foreign currency in the country and focus on projects aimed at locally manufacturing bitumen, thereby creating employment and producing more for export.
“There has been progress in terms of roads rehabilitation in the country but we are doing 200km per year based on what was done last year, it means we still have more years to go before we complete thorough rehabilitation in the whole country. If we look at this seriously as a country there is still time for us to cut the costs and utilise the resources that we have, at the same time also acquire environmentally-friendly equipment for infrastructure development.”
Buy Zimbabwe chairman, Mr Munyaradzi Hwengwere said as the country moves towards the attainment of Vision 2030, manufacturing bitumen locally was key.
“As part of the agenda of turning Zimbabwe into a middle economy by 2030, as a country the agenda is to be transformative, to move from a stage where we are dependent on import to realising that every cent we take out of the country we are putting it into someone else’s pocket.
“Bitumen is a key ingredient in the construction of the roads and if it can be manufactured locally, let us start moving towards that’s direction,” said Mr Hwengwere.
About 29 coal localities are known in Zimbabwe with the major producers being Hwange Colliery and Makomo resources.