HARARE-- Zimbabwean State-owned enterprise (SOE) Verify Engineering and South Africa-based Nkosikhona Holdings have signed a joint venture agreement for the construction of a 5.2 billion US dollars coal-to-liquids plant in the Lusulu coal fields of Matabeleland North Province in the western part of the country.

The investment will also include funding for a mining venture to produce the coal needed to feed the plant. Ground-breaking for the mining venture is expected in June, while construction of the plant is due to start by September this year. The joint venture company is named Vectol.

Speaking after witnessing the signing ceremony here Thursday, President Emmerson Mnangagwa said the investment was in line with his government's thrust of promoting Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) through Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs) and joint ventures.

We are pleased to see that this agreement will see close to 5.2 billion USD of FDI injected into our economy over the next three and half years, he said. My government fully endorses this project and has granted it national project status. I am confident that it will positively contribute to our energy security and self-sufficiency in terms of liquid fuels, fertilizers and a range of other chemicals.

Products to be manufactured include diesel, liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), tar and several agricultural chemicals.

President Mnangagwa said the project would create employment, stimulate productivity and growth of other sectors such as agriculture and mining. I urge both entities to proceed to implement this project with zeal,

guided by clear and definite timelines my government will not accommodate undue delays in the implementation of national projects granted national project status, he said.

Nkosikhona first indicated its interest in the project during an infrastructure investment conference organized by the Higher and Tertiary Education, Science and Technology Ministry in March this year.

It is one of the biggest deals that have come to fruition in the few months that President Mnangagwa has been in office. I am so pleased and grateful for what you have done so far, said the President.

Verify Engineering, a parastatal under the Higher and Tertiary Education, Science and Technology Ministry, said the project would ensure national sufficiency in liquid fuels energy and related products by 2025.

The firm's acting chief executive officer, Pedzisai Tapfumanei, said the plant which will have capacity to produce eight million litres of liquid fuels per day, would also make use of coal-bed-methane.

Nkosikhona Holdings chief executive officer Jaco Immink assured that funding would not be a problem.

He said a Canadian firm, Magcor Holdings, would mobilise funding for the project on its behalf. Magcor consortium group of companies will handle the investment for us. Nkosikhona approached the Ministry of Higher and Tertiary Education and we said we want to invest (and) because Nkosikhona has Magcor as a

backup, if I can say it like that, because we are part of the consortium Magcor is handling the nitty-gritty of the investment, he said.

According to its website, Magcor finances toll roads, bridges, truck station projects, rail lines, airports and dry and sea ports. It has a strong presence in the United States, the Philippines, China, Ghana, Togo, Guinea Conakry, Benin and Sierra Leone.

The company is now entering Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Mozambique and the Democratic Republic of Congo.