Oliver Kazunga, Senior Business Reporter
BULAWAYO is forging ahead with the implementation of the Special Economic Zones (SEZs) with seven local and international companies having so far been considered to operate under the initiative.
Once the industrial hub of the country, Bulawayo has identified 15 sectors under the SEZs initiative, among them education, innovation and research hub, pharmaceuticals and healthcare sector, transport and logistics (mainly as an enabler), engineering (with focus on steel and foundry as an enabler), rubber and plastics, and printing and packaging.
Initially, Bulawayo had been designated as the beef and leather value chain and textiles and clothing SEZ.
In an interview last Friday, Bulawayo SEZs technical working group deputy chairperson Mr Kholisani Moyo who is also the city’s economic development officer said in August the local authority approved four areas for operationalisation of SEZs.
“The first one is the Umvumila area, which has more than 188 hectares, and then the second one being Belmont Industrial Site.
“In Belmont we are targeting those companies, which are operating below capacity and some of them, which are closed, and then the other zones that were also approved are Donnington and Kelvin industrial sites,” said Mr Moyo.
“So the next step was that some of the companies that are interested to operate in those four areas can now apply to be considered, and so far we have more than seven companies comprising local and international that have been considered to operate under the SEZs in Bulawayo.”
Asked about the details of the companies that had so far been considered for SEZs status, Mr Moyo said: “I know of a South African that does the pipes for exports, we also have a gas manufacturing company, and a local clothing manufacturing firm that have also applied to be considered”.
He said there were also other firms in different economic sectors that had also been considered for SEZs status but could not give their details off hand.
During a workshop on SEZs that was held in Bulawayo sometime this year, a Chinese gas manufacturing firm, Chingases Company Limited announced the intent to set up a $15 million plant in the city.
The gas producer, which presently operates in Zambia, produces industrial, medical and domestic gases such as oxygen, acetylene, nitrogen and Liquid Petroleum Gas (LP Gas).
Bulawayo City Council has indicated that in its model of operating SEZs focus was on giving potential investors open land that had been identified in Umvumila area to set up their operations while some existing companies in industrial sites such as Belmont have working space to accommodate new investments.
“When approached by companies as City Council or technical working group, we don’t approve the applications but recommend the applicants to Zimseza for consideration into the SEZs.
“For instance, for the Chinese company and the South African company, we wrote to them (Zimseza) while others have approached them directly,” said Mr Moyo.
Victoria Falls, Sunway City in Harare, Manicaland, and Tugwi-Mukosi in Masvingo province have also been designated as SEZs covering areas such as tourism, information communication technology, diamond sector and agriculture.