The economic challenges that Zimbabwe has gone through over the past decade owing to Western-imposed illegal sanctions, have besides, inflicting serious hardships on the population, also impacted negatively on infrastructure. Zimbabwe was renowned for a well-knit and well-maintained infrastructure, which was the envy of many and was a major draw-card in attracting investors.
It also played a pivotal role in not only supporting the country’s economic growth, but that of the entire southern Africa region because of the country’s geographical position.
But over the years that infrastructure – the roads, railways, telecommunications, power generation and distribution network, as well as dams, irrigation and water reticulation facilities – has crumbled as there were no funds set aside for maintenance and for new projects.
The economic challenges brought about by the economic sanctions meant that the country was living from “hand-to-mouth” and the little money that was available was for importing food, medicine and other basics for immediate consumption.
With the relative economic stability ushered in by the multi-currency regime, things are looking up and over the past few years several foreign investors have expressed an interest in partnering locals in developing some of this infrastructure.
It is no secret that meaningful economic growth can only be achieved and sustained when the infrastructure can support such development. Already, business leaders and policy makers have identified poor infrastructure as being the core of Zimbabwe’s economic challenges.
So much has been written about the state of the country’s roads and bridges. Our roads have reached the end of their lifespan and need a complete revamp.
The increase in the number of vehicles on the roads means something urgent has to be done and we are glad the Zimbabwe National Roads Administration has begun work towards that end, albeit at a slower pace, in partnership with a South African company.
The railway network is in shambles, to say the least, and the sooner work begins towards revamping that network the better.
It is estimated that about $10 billion is needed for infrastructure development in Zimbabwe and this is no small change.
But the Government doesn’t have this kind of money and cannot therefore go it alone as it simply lacks capacity.
The Infrastructure Development Bank of Zimbabwe was created by the Government as a vehicle for mobilising resources, from both domestic and international sources, for infrastructure development.
The bank’s mandate is to mobilise financial and technical resources of appropriate duration and cost for public and private institutions involved in infrastructure development and to facilitate investment in infrastructure.
Granted, it has done its best under the circumstances but we believe that more foreign partners are needed if we are to completely revamp our infrastructure.
Already, the Southern Africa Development Community, of which Zimbabwe is a member, is taking steps to accelerate investment in infrastructure, considered one of the key facilitators of regional integration.
The Sadc Council of Ministers recently approved the setting up of a long-awaited Regional Development Fund, one of whose main priorities will be the financing of infrastructure in the region. The proposed fund will have a subscribed capital of US$1.2 billion.
Zimbabwe could also tap into this fund. We welcome initiatives aimed at revamping the country’s infrastructure. We also welcome the signing of Memorandums of Understanding between the Government and a Chinese company to explore ways of infrastructure development.
It is our hope that the MOUs signed between China Fund International Consortium and the Ministries of Transport, Communications and Infrastructural Development; Local Government, Rural and Urban Development; Mines and Mining Development; Energy and Power Development; and Water Resources Development and Management in Harare on Thursday will be implemented soon.
According to the Chief Secretary to the President and Cabinet, Dr Misheck Sibanda, the projects covered in the MOUs would be implemented under the Build Operate and Transfer basis. Negotiations for the modalities of implementing the agreements would be done within the next three months.
We believe regional partnerships and working together with friendly countries such as China is the way to go in massive infrastructure developments.
It is time that the Look East policy adopted by the Government at the height of economic challenges begins to bring meaningful and tangible results.
The Chinese have helped in massive infrastructure development projects in east and west Africa and given the cordial relations between Zimbabwe and China, we see no reason why they cannot bring that type of development here, partnership with local companies and parastatals.
We also believe that the setting up of a Regional Development Fund by Sadc to fund infrastructure development in the region is the way to go.
As we have said before, a developed infrastructure is the cornerstone of economic growth and development and Zimbabwe must not lag behind.