SELEBI-PHIKWE: Botswana steel import bill stands at P775 million annually but the establishment of the Pula Steel Manufacturing and Casting Plant will reduce the need to buy from outside, Vice President Mokgweetsi Masisi has said.
Officially launching the factory here yesterday, Masisi said local steel demand last year was met primarily by South Africa and China.
He said steel was a basic commodity required by any developing economy for infrastructural developments, mines and construction. According to international trade statistics, SADC imported P36 billion worth of steel in 2014 and the local demand amounted to P775 million.
“We want to fill this import gap and produce steel domestically,” he said. “BCL and SPEDU will work together to grow the SPEDU region into an industrial and minerals processing centre that will attract other investors. SPEDU region is now a special economic zone and this can only remain viable if we remain steadfast in staying ahead of our competitors.”
The establishment of Pula Steel is also expected to create an opportunity for other investors to consider investing in potential downstream projects such as production of nuts, bolts, screws and nails.
Pula Steel is the first integrated steel plant in Botswana, which will process scrap metal into an intermediate product called billet and will further process billet into different types of steel products.
“The billet that will be produced will be 100 percent for export. In eight months’ time, the production process will add a second phase which will produce re-bar and other products, a considerable part of which will be for the local market and some for export,” he added.
Masisi said the plant was strategically placed to benefit
He said the project has all the hallmarks of the economic stimulus package model which is government facilitation, private sector driven, export oriented, import substitution, sustainable job creation and has the potential for downstream economic activity.
The Mayor of Selebi-Phikwe, Amogelang Mojuta said it is one thing to inaugurate the project and another thing to determine its survival and sustainability and said he therefore look towards Pula Steel board of directors and executive management to ensure that they pull all the stops to ensure that the project withstood all the challenges to remain viable and open for business until eternity.
He called for undivided commitment and determination for Selebi-Phikwe to achieve viable and sustainable Pula Steel for the development of the town and sustain the valuable job creation that is so desperately needed.
“If we work as a team, we can achieve more with the limited resources as a town to attract similar type of projects to our mining town,” he said. “Pula Steel has set the bar for other investors who may have been doubtful about the potential that we have as a town.”
Mojuta said the spin offs and trade links that the steel project will generate makes him look at the future with renewed sense of hope after so many years without any investment flow to this town.