(Adds estimated cost of plant)
By MacDonald and Dzirutwe
HARARE, Aug 31 (Reuters) - Africa’s richest man, Nigeria’s Aliko Dangote, said on Monday he plans to open a $400 million cement plant in Zimbabwe, a major boost for the southern African country that is desperate for foreign investment.
The billionaire, whose business empire includes Dangote Cement, also said that he aimed to invest in coal mining and power generation in the country.
“We’ve already decided to invest into Zimbabwe, that’s why we are here. Any country where you see us visiting it means, yes, we’ve decided to invest,” Dangote told journalists in Harare.
He held meetings with Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe and Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa on Monday.
The plant will produce 1.5 million tonnes of cement a year and if government permission is given, construction will begin in the first quarter of 2016, he said.
The government has halved its economic growth target for this year to 1.5 percent, blaming a scorching drought that has hit the key agriculture sector.
Zimbabwe has been struggling for five years to recover from a catastrophic decade of contraction that was marked by billion percent hyperinflation and widespread food shortages. Some analysts say the economy could tip back into recession this year due to the slump in metals prices and a drought.
Zimplats, the country’s biggest platinum producer, announced an annual loss on Monday, for only the second time in its history.
Zimbabwe has lagged behind neighbours like Mozambique and Zambia in attracting foreign investment but said last month it had approved $971 million in foreign investments in the first half of the year versus $555 million a year ago.
Investors often point to Zimbabwe’s black economic empowerment law, which requires foreign-owned firms to sell majority shares, as an obstacle to investment. On Sunday, a cabinet minister said the law would be relaxed. (Editing by David Holmes and Susan Fenton)