How can Bulawayo be revived as Zimbabwe’s industrial hub

13 May, 2022 - 00:05 0 Views
How can Bulawayo be revived as Zimbabwe’s industrial hub Bulawayo City Council economic development officer Kholisani Moyo said the city’s storyline at this year’s Zimbabwe International Trade Fair was on  managing disruptive change through innovation.

eBusiness Weekly

Oliver Kazunga in Bulawayo

BULAWAYO can be restored to its former glory as Zimbabwe’s industrial hub only if new industries are developed rather than paying attention to resuscitating old and closed companies.

Before the turn of the millennium, the city was once Zimbabwe’s industrial heartland, employing several thousands in different sectors of the economy including clothing, textiles, engineering, iron and steel, and food manufacturing.

However, because of the economic meltdown Zimbabwe has gone through over the past two decades, the majority of companies have closed down with some of the premises that used to house companies now being turned into churches.

It is against this background that some years ago, during the period of the Government of National Unity, efforts were made to resuscitate industries in Bulawayo and a campaign code-named, “Let Bulawayo Survive” was launched.

The initiative to restore Bulawayo as an industrial hub as well as promoting industrialisation across the country also saw the setting up of a Distressed Industries Marginalised Areas Fund (Dimaf) from which   city companies such as Merlin, National Blankets and Dunlop accessed funding to revive the entities.

However, despite the companies accessing the funds under the Dimaf facilities, which was administered by Old Mutual through CABS, the entities are yet to come back to life.

In separate interviews yesterday, industrialists in Bulawayo gave an insight on what they think policy makers should do in order to restore the city as Zimbabwe’s industrial hub.

Star Distributors chief executive officer Golden Muoni, who is also the Zimbabwe National Chamber of Commerce immediate national vice president said:

“If you remember very well during the Government of National Unity, there was the Distressed Industries and Marginalised Areas Fund (Dimaf).

“This fund was set up to bail out distressed companies and the companies here got money from that facility. It’s very difficult to revive something which is dead and these are some of the mistakes that were done: to try and revive something which is dead.”

He said it was like putting money in a bottomless pit by trying to revive companies such as Merlin for the production of nappies, which are no longer sought in the modern world.

“At National Blankets, the company got the Dimaf resources but we are still inquisitive about what happened with the money, and quite a number of companies here got the Dimaf funding.

Dunlop is also one of those companies in Bulawayo that got the Dimaf resources, but what we are seeing today is that these were mistakes that were done as a way of trying to revive the dead industries, so why not get an investor for new companies,” said Muoni.

After 1980, he said Zimbabwe inherited an old industry and technology has moved on with a lot of improvements in terms of technology where smart systems are being used elsewhere in the world.

“And as a country, we are still using these outdated technologies which are power consuming because they are obsolete.

“There are so many industries here in Bulawayo and other parts of the country with antiquated machinery.

“So, the question is what needs to be done to restore Bulawayo to its former glory as the industrial hub of Zimbabwe?

“We need to start new companies and forget about reviving something which is dead. We have to bring in fresh money if there are investors that are local,” he said.

Muoni said the support from the Government should always give the local industrialists first preference.

“The Government should give local investors or entrepreneurs tax holidays, and the idea is to capitalise the local entrepreneurs.

“As a country we also have a challenge of coming up with economic policies after every five years without making follow-ups or reviews after their cycles to see the policies shortfalls or progress.

“And this tendency of coming up with policies that we don’t review after their cycles, it will never take us anywhere as an economy.”

That money (Dimaf), which was poured in a bottomless pit should be used to fund and finance new technology, industries or companies.

“If you want to take this economy back to its former glory obviously look at the technology and identify the sectors where we have comparative advantage and get the technology,” said Muoni.

He said authorities also need to cut-off the importation of raw materials and promulgate policies that promote production of raw materials locally.

“We are importing a lot of raw materials. For example, on the RBZ forex auction system, we are an average of importing US$1,2 million worth of raw materials on a weekly basis, and if we calculate that, per annum we are paying close to US$60 million or more.

“And by doing so, this is a leakage because if you look at it most of the raw materials that we are importing are for agro-industries,” he said.

For example, he said Zimbabwe was importing soya, crude oil, and wheat, yet the country has got farmers who can produce the above agro-products.

“As long as we are importing the raw materials that we have got the potential to produce locally, Bulawayo will never be restored to its former glory,” the industrialist.

Bulawayo City Council economic development officer Kholisani Moyo said the city’s storyline at this year’s Zimbabwe International Trade Fair was on  managing disruptive change through innovation.

“Our storyline at this year’s ZITF was premised on managing disruptive change, innovation for economic development.

“The first thing that needs to be done to restore Bulawayo as an industrial hub is to look at each sector and see the disruptive change that has happened in each of the sectors.

“For example, in the energy sector, we had looked at electricity and the electricity that we are getting for the whole city is not enough and this has affected production.

“In this context, we need to look at the innovations that we now want to see in the city, looking at issues to do with generating electricity from biogas.

“We are also looking at developing new sources of renewable energy such small-hydropower stations at places such as Khami,” he said.

“On solar projects, we have already given  different companies land to construct and operate solar power plants in the city and the whole idea is to increase energy supply to industries in Bulawayo.

“We also need to think about new value chains to promote the growth and development of new companies in the city.”

An industrialist Ishmael Kaguru who is the managing director of a city engineering company, Waterwitch, echoed similar sentiments as Moyo.

He said it was also critical to invest in new companies and pouring huge capital flows to both new and existing firms will bring Bulawayo back to its former glory.

“The existing companies need latest technology to improve their efficiencies. On the other hand, it is also critical that authorities look at ways how new companies can be established and inject capital for them to have efficiency in their operations,” said Kaguru.

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