“But now that I am here and am on top of the situation. I must say, however, that my experience has been quite pleasant. For too long Africa has been viewed as a graveyard for under-development.”
Coovadia is the new boss at New Zimbabwe Steel (Private) Limited, formerly Zisco Steel based in Kwekwe. He is also a Director of the Essar Global Limited and Resident Director for the Middle East, Africa and Turkey Essar Global Limited.
Zisco Steel was the bad boy parastatal for the cash-strapped Government of Zimbabwe. It used to be a perennial debtor and loss-making entity that always went cap in hand to bail itself out of a very serious financial crisis.
Coovadia is in the country to try and salvage the desperate situation.
“We need to train Zimbabweans to take over when I leave,” he quickly points out.”Africa needs help in building its workforce and not to have to listen to foreigners all the time because they just implement what they think is the solution which is sometimes not the case as is at New Zimbabwe Steel.”
Coovadia has more than 18 years of investment banking, private equity, audit and investment experience gained in a variety of institutions including KPMG, UBS Warburg, The National Investor and AL Naboodah Investments.
His experience has largely been in emerging markets, (working out of Johannesburg, South Africa, London, United Kingdom, and Dubai, India), and he has been involved in advising governments, parastatals and companies in South Africa, on the African continent and in the Middle East.
Coovadia has led or has been part of the core team on several landmark African and Middle Eastern transactions.
Most recently, however, he has led Essar Africa Holdings Limited team which has completed the Zisco “Transaction” and partial privatisation by the Government of Zimbabwe.
“Zimbabwe is resource-rich, but infrastructure poor,” he said in an exclusive interview. “There were 3 800 workers who were unpaid at Zisco. They were owed a grand total of US$50 million but they were resilient a strong testimony of the people of Zimbabwe. I salute them all today.
“We need a skills transfer and not always reporting to a foreign master. Zimbabwe, however, has no capital and investors always must bring in their own cash which make projects face a difficult time here and thus chases away investors.”
He said the country also faced a political risk scenario where government did not come clean on its policies.
These include the indigenisation policy which is not very clear to some of them, he said.
Coovadia is a third generation South African who is married with three children and holds a Bachelors and Post Graduate Diploma in accounting from the University of Witwatersrand and is a South African qualified Chartered Accountant.
The Essar Group is a multinational conglomerate and a leading player in the sectors of steel, oil and gas, power, telecommunications, shipping, ports, and projects.
With operations in more than 25 countries across five continents, the Group employs 75 000 people, and has revenues of US$17 billion.