OUR Bulawayo Bureau today hosts Cabinet ministers and captains of industry at a business breakfast meeting in Bulawayo set to unlock the city’s economic potential and benefits to accrue from President Mugabe’s recent visit to China and investment agreements he signed
on that trip.
Transport and Infrastructure Development Minister Dr Obert Mpofu and Industry and Commerce Minister Mike Bimha will attend the inaugural business indaba to outline opportunities in road, rail and air transport and manufacturing industry at large.
They will engage the city’s businesses and the leadership from the southern region with a view to finding a common solution to the demise of what used to be the country’s manufacturing capital.
Prominent business executives Hebert Nkala, who chairs the FBCH board, construction and engineering entrepreneur J.R. Goddard and Busisa Moyo, United Refineries chief executive officer and president of the Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries Matabeleland chapter, will also grace the proceedings.
“Putting Zimbabwe Back on Track” is the theme of the meeting, which follows last week’s successful hosting of two similar events by The Herald Business in Harare, a business breakfast last week and a business dinner for the visiting Russian business delegation.
Today’s meeting has generated a lot of enthusiasm with subscription from across the city and surrounding provinces of Matabeleland North and South amid expectation the platform will yield the desired results.
Economic analysts have challenged the ministers and captains of industry to use the engagement to come up with a concrete industrial blue-print and a clear programme of action towards resuscitating Bulawayo’s ailing firms.
The city has hosted a number of business conferences over the years, which analysts say have not achieved expected outcomes.
Economic strategist Dr Gatsha Mazithulela said a paradigm shift was needed in tackling the city’s economy.
“There’s a general fatigue over the Bulawayo issue now because every time conferences will be discussing the closure of companies and problems of judicial management. We now need an economic blue-print for Bulawayo,” he said.
“While these things are true, we need to propose the way forward.
“We need someone who can stand up and tell us what is the future for the city, what Bulawayo’s economy will be like in coming years. We need not dwell on the past.”
Bulawayo Senator Angeline Masuku said she expected the meeting to tackle major road projects and called for prioritised dualisation of the Victoria Falls-Beitbridge road, among other highways that are in a deplorable state in the region. Bulawayo has witnessed the closure of more than 100 firms in the last decade resulting in a loss of nearly 20 000 jobs.
The demise of industry countrywide has reduced the country to an open market for cheap imports, which have been blamed for the increased import bill estimated to be around $4 billion.
Last week Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe Governor Dr John Mangudya underscored the need to identify strategic quick winning firms that will have a catalytic effect on industrial growth.
He warned against pumping money into “dead” firms saying a blanket approach to capital financing was not ideal in an economy saddled with liquidity constraints.
The National Railways of Zimbabwe and the Cold Storage Company are among the key companies with a potential to turn around Bulawayo’s economy, given their operational capacity and potential to employ thousands of people.
The thriving informal sector on one hand has also brought hope to the economy as efforts to upgrade small businesses are underway to enhance their contribution to the mainstream economy.
The deals President Mugabe signed in China last week are set to ignite life into bulk infrastructure development in the energy, rail, road, tourism and agriculture sectors, which are key economic drivers.