The country’s second largest city, Bulawayo has failed to attract meaningful investment for the past two decades, a development that has seen it lag behind its regional peers due to centralization of resources, city Mayor Solomon Mguni has said.
Speaking to 263Chat Business on the sidelines of the launch of air carrier, FastJet Zimbabwe’s Bulawayo to Johannesburg route yesterday, Cllr Mguni said government was not doing enough to promote an enabling environment for investment in the city.
He said this in reference to the city’s dilapidated transport infrastructure and lack of investment in dam infrastructure to end recurring water crises among other challenges the city is battling with.
“In terms of the intergovernmental fiscal transfer which we call devolution money, the city has received the allocation for 2019 and the 2020 formula has been worked out but we still think that as the second largest city in the country, the government can do more in terms of resuscitating industry, resuscitating our water supply systems as well as our travel system,” Mguni said.
In 2019 local authorities shared US$ 700 000 allocated from central government while next year Treasury has set aside ZWL$ 2.73 billion.
However in real terms, the 2020 allocation is far less than that provided last year cognizant of the currency devaluations that have taken place.
But for Bulawayo, several other basic economic enablers have not been resuscitated either, particularly the transport system with rail and the air infrastructure still in its colonial era state.
“In practice, most second largest cities in the world have international airports and we mean international flights not regional or local ones. Joshua Nkomo Airport is supposed to be an international airport but to us it’s not an international airport, it’s a regional airport because the flights we only get here are flights to Harare and Johannesburg,” Mguni said.
Bulawayo’s Joshua Mqabuko International Airport does not have a single international connection, and only services regional flights to South Africa with the rest being local routes.
This is mainly attributed to poor infrastructure at the airport, which has not been able to attract international airliners, he says.
Bulawayo, which used to be the industrial beacon in the country, is the worst hit area by the economic downturn that has taken place in the last two decades.
Most industrial giants Tregers Group, Zimbabwe Engineering Company, Hubert Davies, Merlin Textiles, Stewarts & Lloyds, Build Elect, Dunlop, Hunyani Holdings and G&D Shoes, NRZ, CSC and PG Glass have either closed shop, relocated to Harare or are struggling to remain afloat.
Even the recently promulgated Special Economic Zones (SEZs) have not helped matters as focus seem to be directed to Harare.
Despite the delays in the Zimbabwe Industrial Development Agency (ZIDA) Bill, which will ensure the agency facilitates entry and implementation of investment projects as well as to co-ordinate investment programs, Bulawayo’s SEZs are yet to register any investment projects while at Harare’s SEZs in areas such as Sunway City and Mt Hampen are already witnessing construction.