By Byron Mutingwende
Multinational conglomerate General Electric (GE) has set its sight on investing in Zimbabwe’s energy sector.
Top executives of the company today met the committee on mines and energy and expressed their willingness to invest in aviation, locomotives, power and healthcare with a view of exploring and finding tangible ways for partnerships with the government in those sectors.
The delegation comprised Serame Toukobong, the Chief Marketing Officer of GE Global Operations for Sub-Saharan Africa, who was accompanied by the top management: Reginald Max – GE Director, Project Development and Todd Johnson, GE Risk Leader for Africa.
“73% of installed power bases in Africa are owned by GE. We are partners in development. We are the largest owners of commercial aircrafts and provide security systems and healthcare equipment. We have invested over $500 million in Kenya alone. We have provided local energy suppliers in that country with transformers. We also guarantee 95% uptime of the equipment in Kenya. We also have a $2 billion investment in Nigeria,” Max said.
He said GE supplied turbines and generators and played a key role in the rehabilitation and refurbishment of the Kariba South Power Station. It has also worked at Hwanga Power Station and in close partnership with ZESA Holdings.
“We would like to provide financial and technical support to the government. Zimbabwe is facing challenges because of limited financial resources. As a Zimbabwean I know my country is generally misunderstood. We want to demonstrate to the world that there are opportunities in Zimbabwe. This goodwill visit by GE will culminate in a lot of investment opportunities. We want to engage in the Batoka Power Plant, which is a game-changer for Zimbabwe. We also want to install mini hydro power stations because Zimbabwe is blessed with a large density of dams,” Max said.
GE has implemented renewable energy projects across the world. These include wind and solar power that have meaningful impact on the energy sector. Zimbabwe still has a low percentage of access to energy. The development of infrastructure has positive implications to the growth of the economy.
In Kenya, GE is providing services in family healthcare. It started an innovative hand-held scanner for pregnant women, which has had a positive short-term impact in health delivery.
John Holder, the Member of the House of Assembly for Zvishavane Constituency asked why the company had interest in hydro compared to thermal power projects. The answer was GE has an integrated resource plan for combining all forms of power (energy mix). While coal is cheaper because of its abundance in Zimbabwe, it is a high pollutant. As such financiers and banks like the World Bank don’t give guarantee on coal projects hence it will be difficult to access loans.
The company promised that it would not own strategic assets that belong to the country. It would create the much-needed employment to the locals and give youths some valuable skills.
Tjenesani Ntungakwa, an in economic and political analyst said the recent potential growth of investor interest in Zimbabwe was a promising sign to the possible rejuvenation of the country’s economy.
“In my opinion, this is something to celebrate though it would require consistent on the ground follow-up by the new administration in terms of policies relating to the previously debated Indigenisation Act that seemed to be unclear to most would-be investors. On the political front, it is amusing to see that President Mnangagwa is making some inroads into the traditionally so-called antagonistic camp under the previous Mugabe regime,” Ntungakwa said.
He praised the President for his warm interaction with the international community at Davos, possibilities of Zimbabwe being re-admitted into the Commonwealth and the recent trips to the SADC region particularly Botswana for consolidation of diplomatic relations at the highest state level that had broken down during the Mugabe era.