Lasting impact of hosting SADC Summit in Harare: A legacy beyond the spotlight Parliament has already relocated to Mt Hampden where modern roads are under construction

Nick Mangwana
Permanent Secretary for Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services

As Zimbabwe gets into the home-run in its preparations to host the 44th SADC Summit in August in Harare, a debate has ensued on social media on whether this is good for the country considering that we are in an El-Nino-induced drought year.

The simple answer is that there are broader output values associated with hosting this summit in Harare, particularly in Mt Hampden.

This kind of event generates infrastructural, economic, business, professional, academic and community benefits for the host country, especially at a virgin venue like the New City in Mt Hampden.

As the countdown to this international spectacle begins, what will be the legacy?

What remains after the spotlight fades? The hosting of global or regional events brings immense attention and resources to the host nation. However, the true value lies not in the fleeting glory but in the enduring legacies that shape the country’s future. Mt Hampden is going to tell the story.

Infrastructure development

In the context of this article, legacy means the planned and unplanned positive tangible and intangible structures and values created by the 44th SADC Summit, that remain well after the curtain call on the summit itself.

One of the most tangible legacies is the transformation of a nation’s infrastructure.

New airports, high-speed rail networks and state-of-the-art stadiums rise from the ground, modernising the country’s landscape.

These projects not only enhance the host’s capabilities but also leave a lasting impact on the daily lives of citizens.

For instance, to host the 8th Non-Aligned Movement Summit in Zimbabwe in September 1986, the Government constructed a five-star hotel and conference centre in Harare, which then was operating under a Harare Sheraton contract.

Today, this remains one of the biggest conference and events venues in Zimbabwe, now operating under the Rainbow Tourism Group and, of course, the hotel and conference centre is now known as the Rainbow Towers Hotel.

This is the legacy of hosting the NAM Conference, nearly 40 years ago.

There will be a massive legacy for hosting the SADC Summit in Harare in August.

Zimbabwe is already building a new administrative capital in Mt Hampden.

The hosting of the SADC Summit at that venue is meant to give some impetus to that effort.

The Parliament has already relocated there. Now modern roads are under construction. Villas are also under construction.

The construction of 18 luxurious villas and the attendant amenities is meant to be a catalyst for the development of the new capital city.

These villas will be used by Heads of State for their accommodation for their stay during the SADC Summit, but these will not turn into moribund white elephants afterwards.

These villas are going to be part of a hotel infrastructure, which is part of the masterplan for Mt Hampden.

So the infrastructural regeneration will benefit the citizenry in a very innumerable way.

International relations

The summit will provide a platform for Zimbabwe to strengthen its international relations with other SADC member states and global partners.

The country can leverage this opportunity to build strategic alliances, resolve regional conflicts and promote peace and stability in the region.

We already know President Mnangagwa’s pedigree when it comes to being a top notch diplomat.

The successes of his diplomacy were expansively covered in last week’s piece.

Let us face it, countries bid to hold international gatherings because it gives a country global visibility, enhances its reputation and international standing.

Zimbabwe is no exception. We have our detractors, who are always going to look for negatives regardless of what positives we do. That comes with the territory but in the whole, attracting international media attention has a net positive effect, which includes generating positive news and publicity. The successful holding of this reinforces our brand as a country and positions us as a hub for international diplomacy.

This is our soft power moment and, when we do this right, it will give us an opportunity to show thought leadership at a global scale.

Economic benefits

International events inject a surge of foreign investment, boosting local economies and creating new opportunities.

The influx of tourists and business travellers stimulates demand for services, driving growth in industries like hospitality, tourism, and entertainment.

There is an expectation that Harare will host a lot of international media players, who make Zimbabwe the main news in the region.

We will host tourists too, and of course Heads of State and Government, who will be leading large entourages that will include bureaucrats and security.

All these people will spend money in Zimbabwe, take selfies and talk about Harare.

On this note, we need Harare night life to up its game and live to its name of a non-sleeping city.

This idea of not finding a café, eatery or supermarket open at 1 am does not speak of a modern city aspiring for world class status.

Harare’s economic activity should not go to bed when we all go rest.

So besides the enormous amounts of money that these entourages will spend in Harare, there is a call for shift in our nocturnal economic activity.

Remember, our definition of legacy can be summarised to mean, “the positives that come after the summit”.

From an economic perspective, the hosting of the summit is already creating a lot employment as construction and infrastructure regeneration picks momentum.

Every building or service centre being put up in the new city is an employment centre, now and after the summit.

This economic benefit can never be understated.

Enduring jobs are being created in transport, hospitality, security and retail sectors.

These jobs also have a knock on effect in the manufacturing sectors as people get more money in their pockets they tend to make more demand for goods and services therefore catalysing more production in our industries.

The influx of visitors and possible investment both in the build-up and during the Summit will stimulate economic activity, which will have an impact on our GDP long after the Summit.

Cultural exchange and diplomacy

Hosting this summit will raise Zimbabwe’s global profile, enhance its reputation, foster cultural understanding and diplomacy, bridging divides between nations.

This summit will provide a platform for international dialogue, facilitate people to people as well as business to business collaborations and agreements that transcend borders.

Human capital and knowledge transfer

There is a brain gain that comes with the hosting of events of this magnitude in that it attracts global expertise, transferring knowledge and skills to local professionals.

We have already seen what have been dubbed as “benchmarking trips” being undertaken to Angola which is the outgoing chair to learn lessons.

We have also seen experts, including those from the SADC secretariat, coming to carry out both supportive and assessment visits.

This has the effect of enriching our human capital, enhancing our capacity for innovation and problem-solving. The building of facilities at the New City is bringing in top architects and urban planners who will transfer knowledge and skills locally.

Challenges and opportunities

Hosting this regional event comes at a cost. The financial pressure sometimes can be a challenge, but the benefits outstrip the cost as long as there is a real focus on the legacy of such an event.

The summit itself will take place over quite a short period. What has to last long is the legacy.

When London hosted the Olympics in 2012, the powers that be established an organisation called the London Legacy Development Corporation (LLDC) to help develop a lasting legacy for those Olympics.

This indicated a very deliberate decision to address legacy issues of hosting those Olympics.

There will be no harm from emulating such an approach.

The careful planning and management that is being employed will mitigate the cost of this investment and will also ensure that the legacies can be maximised.

The hosting of international events leaves a lasting impact on a nation, extending far beyond the fleeting excitement of the event itself.

From infrastructure development to economic growth, cultural exchange, and social progress, the legacies of these events shape the future of the host country, creating a lasting imprint on its people, economy, and environment.

As we look to the future, it is essential to recognise the value of these legacies and strive to create a sustainable, inclusive, and prosperous impact that benefits generations to come.

It is through this prism that the hosting of the SADC Summit in Zimbabwe should be viewed.

Whilst we celebrate that SADC is going to be chaired by its most experienced statesman, there is going to be a long term impact which is going to be enjoyed by generations to come. These can be cultural, environmental, community cohesion all the way to the improvement in infrastructure.

For Zimbabwe, the main one is that it will act as a massive catalyst for spatial development of the new capital in Mt Hampden.

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