The Sunday News
Dumisani Nsingo, Senior Business Reporter
THE Zimbabwe Special Economic Zone Authority (Zimseza) has granted Special Economic Zone (SEZ) status to a number of companies anticipated to channel Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) worth over US$1 billion to the country’s economy and availing about 50 000 employment opportunities.
Zimseza chief executive officer Mr Edwin Kondo said the authority licensed SEZ to a number of companies in the private sector as it moves to trigger the growth of the country’s economy. Countries such as neighbouring Mozambique and South Africa are in the process of setting up SEZs and have over the years beaten Zimbabwe in attracting FDI. SEZs allow investors to operate under “special” conditions that are different from the rest of the economy and allow investors more privileges.
“Zimseza has licensed SEZ in the private sector that are at various stages of operationalisation. The statistics are encouraging namely, combined FDI of US$ 1,481 billion, employment of around 50 000 (direct 8 000 and indirect 42 000) per annum, technology and skills transfer across sectors such as mining, tourism, agriculture and others,” he said.
Mr Kondo said the authority has received numerous enquiries from foreign investors keen on investing in the country though most of them do not suit areas designated as SEZs.
“Suffice to say that we have indeed received an avalanche of enquiries from foreign investors though not so much in the areas designated as SEZs. We are pursuing a policy away from the single nod, EPZ (Export Processing Zone) model in favour of value addition investment chain centred on the SEZ model,” he said.
The Government has designated six zones namely Beitbridge, Harare-Sunway City, Victoria Falls, Bulawayo-Umvumela/ Belmont/Kelvin/Donnington corridor and Mutare.
“These zones are at different levels of development and the authority together with its key stakeholders have resolved to commence the development of Sunway City and Beitbridge as they are the lowest hanging fruits out of the six,” said Mr Kondo.
Beitbridge SEZ has 142 hectares of virgin land lying along the Harare–Masvingo-Beitbridge highway and due to its proximity to South Africa, the regional economic hub.
It offers a conducive environment for solar power, the availability of abundant minerals, one-stop shop border post, virgin land for greenfield projects and dedicated water and power supply.
“The investment opportunities offered through the (Beitbridge) SEZ include construction of a world class international airport, gold and diamond mining and processing, glass manufacturing, citrus fruit processing plants and bonded warehouses construction,” said Mr Kondo.
Sunway City SEZ comprises of 87,1 hectares and is strategically located 17km east of Harare Central Business District (CBD) en-route to the port of Beira in Mozambique.
“Investment opportunities include the construction of a High Technology Hub, health and light industrial parks, access to bulk services connections with limited environmental implications regional shopping centre and residential park,” said Mr Kondo.
Pre-feasibility studies and concept master plans for the two (Beitbridge and Sunway City) zones are already in place.
“The Authority is now seized with the task of preparing the actual feasibility study reports that will inform the development of key master plans of each industrial zone.
“This is a transparent process which will involve an open public tender process to attract prospective investors or developers to submit bids for the technical feasibility studies and advisory services,” said Mr Kondo.
Phase 2 of the development of the two industrial parks involves the attraction of developers to work on the infrastructure both onsite and offsite such the civil works (sewer, road construction, drainage and construction of factory shells).
Mr Kondo said the authority was exploring various funding models so as to guard against over-dependency on Treasury.
“We are deliberately pursuing a hybrid approach towards funding models that will see a reduced dependency on the direct allocation from the fiscus over time. Once the zones have been adequately structured, lenders and the private sector, Government agencies (National Social Security Authority, Zesa, TelOne, Infrastructure Development Bank of Zimbabwe) and PPPs (Public-Private Partnerships) will play a critical role for the provision of funding for the development of feasibility and master plans together with lines of credit for the of onsite and offsite infrastructure and superstructure of the industrial zones,” he said.
He said the authority together with the Zimbabwe Investment Authority would be amalgamated and fall under the Zimbabwe Investment Development Agency (Zida) as part of the Government to expedite investment approvals as well as improving the ease of doing business in the country.
“Plans for the formation of a one-stop investment centre are at an advanced stage with the Zida bill undergoing parliamentary processes.
“This will see the amalgamation of Zimseza, Zimbabwe Investment Authority, and the Joint Venture unit under one roof. Investors will approach one organization Zida and all prior relations already created under the existing bodies will remain intact without any negative ratifications,” said Mr Kondo.