Special Economic Zones plan gathers momentum

Dr Misheck Sibanda (left) admires ripe tomatoes during a tour of Harvest Fresh processing plant in Chegutu yesterday

Dr Misheck Sibanda (left) admires ripe tomatoes during a tour of Harvest Fresh processing plant in Chegutu yesterday

Tendai Mugabe, Harare Bureau
THE Government is on course to provide the two million jobs it promised in the Zim-Asset economic blueprint, with three Special Economic Zones expected to be operational by the first quarter of next year employing the majority of the job seekers, an official has said.

Chief Secretary to the President and Cabinet Dr Misheck Sibanda said after a tour of the Harvest Fresh Africa horticultural processing plant in Chegutu yesterday that Government aimed to create more than the promised two million jobs.

He toured the plant in the company of several permanent secretaries and senior directors in the OPC.

The three SEZs, Sunway City in Harare, Bulawayo and Victoria Falls, are expected to have started operating by that time.

Sunway City will specialise in high-tech and other related businesses, while the Bulawayo Special Economic Zone will be anchored on textile production and will cut across several towns drifting towards Harare.

In Victoria Falls, the major focus would be on tourism, financial services and medical tourism.

A high level team led by the Office of the President and Cabinet has just returned from China where it received training on how to manage the SEZs.

The team comprised 20 senior officials from various ministries and another round of training is expected to be held locally before the end of the year.

Fresh Harvest Africa was formally owned by Bonn Zimbabwe and at its peak it was the third largest producer of green beans in Africa.

“As we speak, we have a team that has just come back from China and was working with our colleagues at the National Reform and Development Commission of China in trying to implement our special economic zones,” said Dr Sibanda.

“The Bulawayo (SEZ) is going to specialise in textile production, leading to cloth manufacturing as well as the leather and leather products supported by strong engineering background.

“It will have satellite programmes within the corridor, in other words from Bulawayo along the railway (line) up to Harare. We hope that by the first quarter of next year our Special Economic Zones will be operational, that is in Bulawayo, in Harare at Sunway City and in Victoria Falls specialising in tourism, financial services sector, as well as medical tourism. We are already in the process of implementation. We send a team for training (in China), 20 from various ministries and there will be another training which will be done now in Zimbabwe, I think before the end of the year.

“The geographical location of this plant is very ideal for future expansion, especially from Government point of view as we are in the process of developing a Special Economic Zone corridor which will stretch from Bulawayo passing through Chegutu going to Harare and beyond.”

Dr Sibanda continued: “We are moving as far as we are concerned. Our job is to ensure that we turn around the economy and employ near two million people if not more and the kind of project we have seen today as you have heard here, it will employ no less than 2 000, which is something we should be proud of.”

Dr Sibanda said Government was doing everything to ensure a conducive business environment.

He said: “Lots of legislation on ease of doing business has gone through. Thirteen pieces of legislation has just gone through Parliament and we are now moving sector by sector to address constraints, for instance in the agricultural sector, constraints in the export sector, constraints within local government and other various sectors.”

Harvest Fresh Africa managing director Mr Simbarashe Mhungu said they were investing $9 million in the project, which had the potential to create more than 2 000 jobs and several other downstream benefits to the local community.

He said they appealed to Government to provide at least 450 hectares of land to ensure sustainable supply of fresh produce to the plant.

“This is a horticultural project where we are investing $9 million in value addition,” said Mr Mhungu. “We will be both growing and processing horticultural produce. Historically, Bonn Zimbabwe has been one of the largest foreign currency earners in the country and we have just resuscitated that. We believe the project can earn between $40 and $50 million a year in export revenue.”

Mr Mhungu said their produce had a ready market in Europe and the United States of America.

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