Samia reassures investors as she opens $311m glass factory

President Samia Suluhu Hassan speaks to the people of Mtama District Lindi Region as she continues in a tour of the southern regions. PHOTO | STATE HOUSE

Mkuranga. President Samia Suluhu Hassan yesterday reassured investors of the security of their properties and continued improvement of the investment environment as she commissioned the first-ever float glass factory.

Speaking during the commissioning event of the $311 million Sapphire Float Glass industry at Mkiu village in Mkuranga, President Hassan said the government was committed to attracting more investment in the major factories to spur the government’s industrialization drive.

“I want to reassure the foreign investors that your properties are in safe hands. Keep investing in Tanzania, and we will continue to improve the investment climate,” President Hassan said, adding that more such large investments were coming.

“The presence of such investments as Sapphire in Tanzania is a testimony to the strong economic cooperation between Tanzania and China. Remember, we have now moved from normal cooperation to a strategic partnership with China,” she added.

President Hassan added that the government will soon launch an electronic investment window that will bring together 12 regulatory institutions as part of simplifying investment procedures in Tanzania.

Sapphire Float Glass Factory, which is expected to produce 700 metric tonnes of building glass per day, is the only one of its kind in East and Central Africa and the fourth in the continent after two were established in Nigeria and one in South Africa.

The factory currently employs 750 people, and upon completion, it will create 1,650 jobs, according to the executive director of the China-based Wangkang Investment Group, which owns the factory, Mr Frank Yang. He said the investment in glass manufacturing increases the ties between Tanzania and China.

“The investment environment is improving significantly in Tanzania, and that attracted us here,” he said.

“We are willing to explore the possibility of expanding investment,” he said, adding that the company has already acquired 500 more acres.

According to him, 75 percent of the glasses will be exported and therefore generate more foreign currencies.

The factory is now producing float glasses, which are used for building, but upon completion, it will be in a position to generate automotive glasses, according to the Industry and Trade minister, Dr Ashatu Kijaji.

Dr Kijaji said 80 percent of the industry’s raw materials are sourced locally, and the remaining percentage, which is mainly soda ash and iron, is imported.

“We are now discussing with the factory owners the possibility of developing our soda ash project in Engaruka and ultimately sourcing their raw materials 100 percent from within Tanzania,” said Dr Kijaji.

“The biggest challenge about which the investors are complaining is the absence of critical infrastructure such as electricity and reliable roads. We need to compensate some people for the project and develop the needed infrastructure. That’s where we need your support, Mad President,” she said at the well-attended meeting.

President Hassan accepted the proposal and said the government will work on the matter to ensure the project is explored and ultimately ensure the factory gets 100 percent of its raw materials from within Tanzania.

Dr Kijaji said manufacturing the vehicle glasses will add to Tanzania’s power to participate in the Africa Continental Free-Trade Area (AfCFTA), where some African countries are establishing vehicle assembly factories.

The Chinese ambassador in Tanzania, Ms Chen Minjian, said the investment in the glass factory will not only grow the ties between the two countries but also increase Tanzanian exports.

“I hope this made-in-Tanzania product will be successful in both Tanzania and international markets,” she said, urging the Chinese companies in Tanzania to continue upholding the concept of sincerity.

The Sapphire Float Glass Factory is among the major factories in the Coast region, which leads in hosting industries in the country.

Currently, it has 1,525 factories, including 30 major industries, according to Coast Regional Commissioner Abubakar Kunenge.

According to him, 55 other factories were ready and awaiting commissioning.

The minister for Planning and Investment, Prof Kitila Mkumbo, said the kind of jobs created by such factories show the importance of investing in mid-level education.