Victoria Ruzvidzo Business Focus
Not so long ago Zimbabwe’s capital city Harare, was indeed a sunshine city. The roads were well-maintained, buildings were spruced up, traffic lights worked all the time and business was more organised than it is now.
The city played host to many local, regional and international conferences which obviously contributed significantly to its economic well-being.
The roads teemed with cars although congestion then was not as bad as it is now.
Its industries were working, its shopping centres offered high quality products and met consumer demand in terms of taste and availability.
Water supplies were not much of a challenge for both residential and industrial consumers. There was proper zoning for business, residential and vending.
Social amenities such as swimming pools, gardens, parks and libraries were in order. Refuse collection was done systematically.
People knew exactly which areas were collected on which particular days and times.
Street lighting was superb to the extent that even at night it was easy to discern that Harare was the Sunshine City.
Investors, both local and foreign were eager to be part of the sober life that Harare was. A city so full of promise – a city full of life – a city that could compete with top cities globally any day.
However, slowly, and even rapidly in the latter years, Harare has turned into a dirty, chaotic and seemingly directionless city carrying a mixture of people and issues that need resolving. You can hardly tell whether the city is coming or going. The story has changed.
Harare is the face of Zimbabwe. Investors taste the country’s waters via the capital city.
In fact investor behaviour is such that those seeking growth opportunities in a country use the capital city as a barometer to measure a country’s capacity and the propensity for their businesses to thrive.
The question that then immediately pops up is whether Harare still fits the bill? Can we confidently say our capital city is well poised to compete with others in the developing world to attract investment.
Is the capital city playing its role in the economy as it should?
Of course challenges such as rural to urban migration have compounded the situation and have further squeezed service provision but is there no way out in terms of adapting the city’s systems to current demands. Can sanity prevail.
Research done by the McKinsey Global Institute titled “Urban world: Mapping the economic power of cities”, states that the top 600 cities in the world contributed more than $30 trillion of the global Gross Domestic Product while holding 485 million households with an average per capita GDP of $20 000.
The top 100 cities alone contributed $27 trillion of the GDP representing 38 percent of the total then. The research was done in 2010.
It is believed that by 2025, the top 600 cities will contribute 60 percent of global GDP, estimated at $64 trillion by then, while at least two billion people will be living in cities.
Such statistics illustrate that cities are major economic hubs that have a large bearing on the global economy. This being a sum total of their respective contributions to individual economies.
It would be too much to expect Harare to be in the top cities of the world category in 10 years time given the challenges it must first contend with. But how far can the city go to present a formidable force on the global stage?
Obviously the first port of call should be to ascertain what brought it to the current state in the first place.
Is it mismanagement, the increasing level of poverty that have forced more people to come to the capital city in search of the seemingly elusive dollar, is it the illegal sanctions imposed by the West, is it corruption or is Harare merely reflecting the high levels of corruption and their effects on the economy? It could actually be a combination of these factors. However, we should not continue to mourn the current state of affairs but should instead look for solutions that will bring back the glamour that Harare was at some point renowned for.
In fact a massive injection of capital into the city is urgently required to rehabilitate infrastructure and restore services.
Already we have witnessed significant work on the water system and expect the city authorities to up their game in rehabilitation efforts. By-laws should be adhered to or amended where necessary so that they conform to the current dictates.
“For policymakers, understanding the shifting gravity of the global urban landscape is equally valuable. Our projections describe the urban trends that we expect to unfold from today’s environment, but the growth and prosperity of cities critically depend on the way the evolving challenges of cities are managed.
“Policymakers who anticipate urban trends will not only be better prepared to respond to the increasing complexity of larger cities but can use effective planning and management to help boost the growth prospects of their urban regions,” stated the McKinsey report.
It stated that companies would be more discerning when choosing where to invest their funds, with those that offer the most promising prospects naturally attracting the bulk of such investments.
For Harare, as policymakers work out their plans, residents in the city need to also change their attitude and help restore Harare to its rightful status.
Over the years, I have had so much disdain with the City of Harare officials until I was nudged on Sunday by what UFIC founder Prophet Emmanuel Makandiwa and the city director of works Engineer Philip Pfukwa said during the UFIC morning service.
I had always pointed fingers at the city officials for turning the city – once the pride of Zimbabwe – into a jungle of sorts. But I was made to realise that while the city authorities have a fair share in the current state of affairs, us as residents have also contributed to the dirt and dilapidation of infrastructure and that the onus is on us to right our wrongs.
“I believe that we are also responsible for the littering that we see in the city. And if you look at our council, they have a lot of developmental responsibilities upon them and cleaning up of the city is just a minor section and we have over burdened them by allowing them to do things that we can do ourselves.
“I wouldn’t want to look as if we are helping them but as citizens we are also helping ourselves,” said Prophet Makandiwa.
The man of God and his wife Prophetess Dr Ruth Makandiwa a fortnight ago led thousands of their church members in a massive clean-up campaign in Harare which covered the city’s business district and left a breath of fresh air.
Engineer Pfukwa said this gesture alone halfed the city’s burden over the days that followed.
“We were caught by surprise by the prophet last week (two weeks ago).
“We really appreciated what you did last week and that is why as council we want to say thank you. There is a lot which you did and it sent a strong message to the nation,” he said this as he presented a certificate of appreciation to the church.
Eng Pfukwa said it was unfortunate that when Zimbabweans visited neighbouring countries they did not throw litter everywhere but would immediately resume their habit when they cross the borders back into Zimbabwe.
“Let’s respect our country and let’s not litter everywhere,”
This, therefore, calls for Harare residents to own up to their mistakes and begin to behave differently.
If we all placed litter in the bin and did not dump dirt from our houses on the streets, the city would be a cleaner place.
If we all used water sparingly and would not let taps run throughout the night, water would not be such a problem.
If we all did not vandalise street lights and other infrastructure then such services would be available.
The economy needs to be firing from all cylinders and so much responsibility is placed on the capital city to perform.
Not only will this improve the quality of life for all Zimbabweans but the country would also occupy its rightful position as a regional powerhouse and a global player of repute.
Surely the two and a half million people resident in Harare can collectively make a difference. Demographics show that at least 60 percent of these are adults.
In God I Trust
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