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-The Herald

The construction industry in Zimbabwe will be revolutionised following the commissioning by President Mnangagwa yesterday of Lafarge Cement Zimbabwe’s dry mortar mix plant, dramatically expanding the range and quantities of raw materials suitable for the latest building technologies along with additional lime for agriculture and water treatment.

The plant, valued at US$2,8 million is under phase one of Lafarge Zimbabwe’s three-phase expansion programme launched in 2019 for a total investment of US$25 million. The next stage, a vertical cement mill, is being built for opening early next year.

Lafarge Cement Zimbabwe is a subsidiary of Switzerland-based LafargeHolcim. The new dry mortar mix plant which was sourced from Turkey, is the largest of its kind in Southern Africa, and is the first such plant installed in any LafargeHolcim operation in Africa, putting Zimbabwe into a continental leading position.

Besides its more conventional role, taking production of the range of dry mortar mix products from 7 tonnes to 100 000 tonnes a year, the plant is capable of producing mortar for Lafarge’s new technology, what it calls 3D Printing, which will increase the speed of construction by up to 70 percent as compared to conventional methods while costs would go down by 40 percent.

Through this technology, a house can be constructed in 12 hours. The 3D printer is expected in the third quarter of the year through a subsidiary of LafargeHolcim called 14 Trees.

“Consequently this will have far reaching impact on the attainment of targets set out in National Development Strategy 1 with regards to community based infrastructure development under devolution. “The construction of housing units, modernisation and upgrading of our ports of entry and other social service infrastructure will also be timely completed,”

President Mnangagwa said.

Lafarge describes the technology as: 3D printing is the moulding of a structure by precisely placing volumes of material in sequential layers on top of each other, constructing from the ground up. The material is pushed through a nozzle which regulates flow and is guided by computer-controlled positioning process. The material used in the process is cement based with sand and specially designed admixtures as additives.

President Mnangagwa noted that the completion of other projects like the Emergency Road Rehabilitation Programme, dam construction, housing delivery, provision of social amenities, work spaces for SMES among others would also be expedited with the new range of materials now produced locally instead of being imported.

The plant would also see an increase in the production of tile adhesives, floor solutions, plasters, water proofing solution and agriculture lime among others with an annual capacity of 100 000 tonnes but expected to peak at 150 000 tonnes.

The investment the President said, would see an increase in the country’s exports in light of the adoption of the African Continental Free Trade Area. Almost all raw materials at Zimbabwe’s Lafarge are local so the rules of origin would allow the free trade exports.

“These investments by Lafarge Cement Zimbabwe are indeed ground breaking and dovetail with my administration’s call to adopt and adapt innovation and technology in all sectors,”

President Mnangagwa said.

He called for collaboration between industry and institutions of higher learning as the country modernise all facets of the economy and society.

The President said the envisaged increase in lime output will immensely benefit the agriculture sector, especially the recently launched National Blitz Soil Conditioning Programme under the Agriculture and Food Systems Transformation Strategy.

President Mnangagwa said the commissioning of the plant was testimony that Zimbabwe was open for business and dialogue.

“Our arms remain outstretched to welcome investors from across the world,”

he said.

“My Government continues to implement a broad array of the ease of doing business reforms and improving the overall investment climate. In addition, pertinent issues around economic competitiveness, cost drivers in value chains across all sectors of the economy are being interrogated and reviewed.”

The President commended the excellent relations between Zimbabwe and Switzerland dating back to country’s fight for independence.

He expressed gratitude to Swiss companies for maintaining their operations in the country in the face illegal sanctions including the country’s support and partnerships in many sectors.

“In this regard, plans for the establishment of the Swiss-Zimbabwe Business Chamber are most welcome. We further look forward to enhanced cooperation in other programmes and projects for job creation and the empowerment of our people especially the youth,”

President Mnangagwa said.

Lafarge Cement Zimbabwe chief executive officer Mrs Precious Nyika said the plant would be a game-changer in Zimbabwe’s agricultural and housing sectors.

“This automated dry mortars plant will go a long way to improving local supply of the range of products and will ultimately create more value for our customers the introduction of new products. Furthermore, this capacity expansion translates to a guaranteed business growth opportunity for the partners in our value chain. Lafarge currently offers a range of dry mortar products which include the tile adhesive range known as Supafix which has made significant inroads in the individual home builders segment”,

said Mr Nyika.

Although the main contractor — Varlik — is a Turkish company, the construction of the plant incorporated four local contractors, namely AGES, GEC, Sinoma and Wcrane in line with NDS1’s goal of promoting new enterprise development, employment and job creation.

AGES in particular received both technical and financial support through Zimbabwe Platinum Holdings’ local enterprise development programmes.

Lafarge said it remained committed to supporting the national housing development agenda through the introduction of new, exciting, game changing technology to address some of the challenges with traditional methods of construction.

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