Govt drags feet in setting up Special Economic Zones

Gideon Gono
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Business has urged government to expedite the setting-up of Special Economic Zones (SEZs) to attract investment into the country and boost the sluggish economic growth.

SEZs encourage trade, investment, job creation and effective administration by offering incentives to investors.

“We are not very much informed of what exactly is going on as far as the policy makers are concerned and the implementation process. From my own understanding, the last conversation which I had with the Bulawayo City Council, the land which had been designated for the SEZs had been identified,” Zimbabwe National Chamber of Commerce Matabeleland Chapter president, Golden Muoni said.

“So as of now we are not sure what needs to be done going forward to make sure that the SEZs are taking off now and become a reality and not just boardroom talk. We are going to check with relevant offices to ask what has happened and what is happening,” he said.

Association for Business in Zimbabwe chief executive officer, Victor Nyoni said: “We know that the ceo was appointed but we have not heard anything tangible as business. There is not much talk about incentives. There is disappointment from our part and we have gotten to a point where we believe that the current regime doesn’t believe in the concept.”

Nyoni said he wondered why it had taken so long for the concept to be implemented given that property owners, especially in Bulawayo, had been engaged.

Zimbabwe Special Economic Zones Authority (Zimseza) chief executive, Edwin Kondo, told Standardbusiness that the authority needed to develop infrastructure such as roads, data networks, power and sewer among others, before implementing SEZs.

“Zimseza has gazetted four special economic zones. These are Bulawayo (Kelvin/Donnington/Belmont corridor) and Umvumela, Victoria Falls Masuwe Statement, Beitbridge regional logistical hub and Mutare Fernhill Estate for manufacturing and logistics into the northern regions of Southern African Development Community,” Kondo said.

Kondo said they were now developing the detailed implementation plans, which included development of the dedicated infrastructure such as roads, data networks, power, sewer and so forth.

“This is critical. Infrastructure is what attracts investors to come into a particular zone. We aim to have these zones fully operational within the next 5-10 years, on a phased basis,” he said.

Related to the issue of operationalising the zones, Kondo said they were seeking developers of infrastructure into these zones. He said developers were businesses and investors who will put up the utilities and/ or the super structures such as factory shells.

“Developers are welcome from any country, but we go through formal processes such as tenders to appoint them. As for the areas of interest, the sectors of interest are in agriculture, manufacturing, tourism, mining and high technology,” he said.

Zimbabwe’s foreign direct investment inflows are currently very low as investors are not keen on putting their money where there are policy inconsistencies.