BY TIRI MASAWI
MATRIX Petroleum, a United Kingdom-based oil firm majority-controlled by Zimbabwean-born Malvin Chiwanga, has announced plans to enter the Namibian and South African markets.
The firm has significant interests in renewable energy and logistics, and says it will be scaling up its regional ambition riding on the Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA).
In an interview with Standardbusiness on Friday, Chiwanga, the Matrix Petroleum chief executive officer, said after establishing a footprint in seven African markets, the firm would drive its Sadc ambition from Namibia.
Chiwanga said AfCFTA, a US$3,2 trillion bloc that has already seen 54 of Africa’s 55 countries joining, created a big growth opportunity.
“Intra-Africa trade is worrisomely low at the current moment, especially on oil and gas,” Chiwanga said.
“But the creation of AfCFTA is a good start to improving this. Estimations are that this will bring the African market of over one billion people together and smoothen free movement of goods and services.
“Namibia is our first port of call in the next two years.
“Perhaps what has dragged intra-Africa trade is the fact that we are all resource-centred and we produce more or less the same commodities, hence we need to look at value addition.
He added: “In terms of oil and gas, we need to look at the potential to refine the crude oil so it can be consumed by those that do not produce.
“For example, in Sadc you have a scenario where most countries could just buy oil from Angola, but the failure to value-add has left this market acquiring further afield in other regions mostly the Gulf region.”
Chiwanga said as one of the major oil producers, Africa must look beyond the region, refine and trade its resource internationally.
“Efforts should be invested in the continent accruing full benefits of trading within as well promoting full movement of goods and services,” he said.
“It is also imperative that for this great initiative to succeed, the continent should seriously look at issues of double taxation and very high customs charges among member states.”
He said oil was well placed to improve African economies.
However, Chiwanga said it was imperative to improve governance of the resource.
For a resource to improve a local economy it needs to be exploited to the benefit of all its citizens, he said.
Chiwanga said African leaders must invest in driving AfCFTA in the near future in order to make the bloc succeed and help in building economies.
“At least the bulk of the African countries have ratified the agreement which is a major step forward in implementing the agreement,” the businessman said.
“However, political will alone might not be the only important aspect needed from African leaders, but there might also be need for countries to look at the possibility of collecting high import duties for the better good of the continent and also better implementation of the plan.”