A US$120 million tile manufacturing plant near Norton has gone full steam ahead, barely eight months after management got the nod to set up base locally.
Sunny Yi Feng Tiles (Zimbabwe) is already operating three factories that are making tiles, printing cardboard boxes for packaging the tiles and logistical support, covering up to 75 percent of its capacity and is expected to reach full production soon.
The company started producing tiles on May 12 and is producing 25 000 square metres per day. Its installed capacity is 35 000 square metres of tiles per day.
Sunny Yi Feng has employed 1 000 people — 800 locals and 200 Chinese nationals — which dovetails with Government’s aspiration to create jobs for citizens.
Company president Mr Tang Yi told The Herald during a plant tour yesterday that a further 600 jobs will be created when the firm operates at full capacity. “The US$120 million project has taken shape and three factories are now in production,” said Mr Tang through an interpreter.
“One factory is for tile production, the other is printing boxes for packaging tiles while the third is the logistical support unit where a number of things such as spoons are being made.
“We are on schedule; we intend to set up six factories here and we expect another factory possibly by July.”
Sunny Yi Feng uses new generation, highly computerised equipment, and plans to sell 70 percent of its tiles in the region and potentially Europe, while the remainder will be consumed locally.
This will help the country earn the much-needed foreign currency.
Chinese Embassy in Zimbabwe’s Counsellor (deputy chief of mission) Mr Zhao Baogang told The Herald that the success of Sunny Yi Feng’s investment will attract more investors from the Asian giant.
“This is one of the projects under the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) where we come to invest and create jobs and also eliminate poverty.
“Can you imagine that they started in October last year and only a few months down the line, they have built very big factories? This is the Chinese speed of doing things and with this kind of speed,
Zimbabwe’s economy will be turned around in the near future.
“As China, we are strongly behind the leadership of President Mnangagwa and this investment is the first of more to come,” said Mr Zhao.
He added that if Zimbabwe paced up reforms on ease of doing business, particularly access to power, water and land, more Chinese investors will flock to the country.
Mr Zhao said during the construction process of the project, the company overcame several challenges after being helped by President Mnangagwa and his Vice Presidents.
“The company had problems with land, but that was resolved with the help of national leadership and look now, this project is a miracle for Zimbabwe and a miracle for cooperation between Zimbabwe and China,” said Mr Zhao.
Sunny Yi Feng uses 8MW of electricity at its plant but the kiln for making tiles is fired by coal which is transferred to gas to eliminate pollution.
The kiln is heated up to 1 200 degrees Celsius to produce strong tiles.
Raw materials for tile making are obtained locally, largely from Mazowe, Chegutu, Selous and Chakari.
The company plans to invest in an industrial park where everything required in the construction process, except steel and cement, would be found.
Sunny Yi Feng plans to empower employees by constructing houses and a shopping mall near the houses, to reduce transport costs when going to work.
An application for land has since been made.
But Local Government, Public Works and National Housing Minister July Moyo has reportedly asked the company to sell the houses to staff when constructed.
Sunny Yi Feng has agreed and will sell 80 percent of them.