Vic Falls stadium anchors  US$5bn tourism target President Mnangagwa receives a model of the Mosi-oa-Tunya International Cricket Stadium from Cricket Zimbabwe chair Tavengwa Mukuhlani after laying the foundation stone to mark the start of construction in Victoria Falls yesterday. Looking on are Vice Presidents Constantino Chiwenga (left) and Kembo Mohadi (right). — Picture: Eliah Saushoma.

Mashudu Netsianda in VICTORIA FALLS and Zvamaida Murwira in HARARE

CONSTRUCTION of multi-purpose sporting infrastructure, anchored by an international cricket stadium in Victoria Falls, is a major step towards development of new tourism products and facilities as well as leapfrogging the attainment of a US$5 billion tourism sector by 2025 as envisaged by the National Development Strategy 1, President Mnangagwa has said.

He said this yesterday after laying the foundation stone to mark the beginning of construction of the Mosi-oa-Tunya International Cricket Stadium in the country’s premier resort town.

The project dovetails with the Second Republic’s quest to broaden the tourism products and integrate the development of the Masuwe Special Economic Zone in Matabeland North Province, through promoting sports tourism.

President Mnangagwa highlighted that the location for the envisaged facility would contribute significantly to the speedy attainment of tourism sector targets towards the country’s national development.

The laying of the foundation stone followed the allocation of 10 hectares of land by the Government to Zimbabwe Cricket for the construction of an international cricket stadium and ancillary facilities, to be used in the hosting of the 2027 Cricket World Cup, jointly with South Africa and Namibia.

An integrated tourism resort model would be developed around the stadium to include a central business district, medical tourism facility, golf estate, tourism school and conference facilities, among others, said the President.

Between US$5 million and US$10 million will be invested, mainly from grants from the International Cricket Council, for the stadium and ancillary facilities.

“The construction of the international cricket stadium and associated facilities under the Sports Tourism Cluster is a major step towards driving the development of new tourism products and facilities, while leap-frogging the attainment of a US$5 billion tourism sector economy by 2025.

“The project is further set to generate foreign exchange revenue, facilitate technological and skills spill-overs, create employment opportunities as well as propel various economic downstream and upstream linkages,” said President Mnangagwa.

“The Ministry of Tourism and Hospitality Industry is directed to revisit the set sector target, more so given the tourism sector’s potential for growth.

“We must be more innovative as we believe in our inherent potential. Across all sectors, including in the tourism sector, we are ready to chart our own development path. No one, under whatever guise, must ever take away this preserve from us.

“Hence, more Economic Zones of this nature shall be designated to support and propel innovation, diverse industries, products, services and general economic growth for the good of our country and people. This is what it means that, ‘Nyika inovakwa, inotongwa, inonamatigwa nevene vayo/Ilizwe lakhiwa, libuswe, likhulekelwe ngabanikazi balo’.”

He said investments were expected to rise, given that Victoria Falls had a thriving hospitality industry.

“Going forward and leveraging on the diverse functions and scope of Special Economic Zones, I expect the scale and quality of both domestic and global investments to increase.

“This is more so as the City of Victoria Falls already has a thriving tourism and hospitality industry ecosystem, as well as a budding and promising financial service trading platform,” the President said.

The project in Matabeleland North is in line with the devolution agenda to bring about multi-pronged development initiatives that leave no one and no place behind and will enhance the rich natural heritage associated with the premier resort city.

Zimbabwe, said President Mnangagwa, remained ready to co-host the 2027 Cricket World Cup, together with South Africa and Namibia.

“To this end, the proposed cricket stadium is one of the priority projects that will be pursued with a greater sense of urgency as we develop, improve and expand our national integrated infrastructure.

“In the spirit of collaboration and development of synergies under the ‘Whole of Government and Society approach’, land was availed by my Government for the construction of the proposed stadium,” he said.

President Mnangagwa called for unity of purpose and team work among all stakeholders to ensure timely completion of the project.

“Meanwhile, it is commendable that the Joint Management Committee constituted by Victoria Falls City Council and Hwange Rural District Council, among other stakeholders, is facilitating the take-off of this project. Well done.

“Taking a leaf from this project, I challenge other local authorities to ensure greater effectiveness in local government administration, towards entrenching the ease of doing business systems to attract private sector players, more investments and capital into respective localities.

“This and other initiatives at this Masuwe Special Economic Zone, must result in increased competitiveness of the Victoria Falls in our domestic, regional and international economic matrix,” he said.

President Mnangagwa noted that the tourism and hospitality industry remained one of the strategic and key contributors to the national GDP, occupying third place after agriculture and mining.

“In this regard, my Government has adopted a comprehensive Tourism and Hospitality Industry Growth Strategy that organises the tourism and hospitality sector into clusters.

“This approach focuses on enhancing targeted tourism development, promotion as well as diversification,” he said.

Government, said President Mnangagwa, would continue to implement well-structured programmes to support a highly trained and efficient workforce, as well as a robust legal and financial system to sustain the prevailing enabling business operating environment.

“It is a policy imperative under the Second Republic to ensure that local communities remain both drivers and beneficiaries of the growth of our economy.

“The Tourism and Hospitality Industry must, therefore, facilitate the participation of local communities across the tourism and hospitality value chain.

“All of us, the private sector, Government and communities, should benefit from developments and investments in our country. Together we prosper,” he said.

“In this spirit, I commend stakeholders for guaranteeing that the cricket infrastructure and associated facilities being constructed here will involve local communities, the youth and women at every stage, through the creation of employment and training opportunities.”

President Mnangagwa said in keeping with the United Nations Tourism Agenda and the precepts of sound Environmental Governance, there was a need to strike an intricate balance that protected the natural habitat, biodiversity and wildlife.

“The modernisation and societal evolving trends and patterns in the sports and recreation sector across the world should not be ignored as we develop sports, recreation and tourism industries.

“As we focus on the construction of the Zimbabwe Cricket Stadium here in Victoria Falls, the rehabilitation, upgrading and modernisation of other sporting facilities across the country should equally be given appropriate attention,” he said.

Tourism is a key pillar of the Zimbabwean economy and ranks third after mining and agriculture, accounting for 12 percent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product during the period January to September 2023.

The international cricket stadium and associated facilities will significantly contribute to the growth of the economy, while creating more training and employment opportunities.

“I call upon the Ministry of Sports, Arts and Recreation, as well as that of Tourism and Hospitality Industry, Zimbabwe Cricket and contractors, among other stakeholders, to uphold the Second Republic’s work ethic of working in unison for the timely completion of this high-priority project,” said the President.

The modernisation and societal evolving trends and patterns in the sports and recreation sector across the world would not be ignored as the country developed sports, recreation and tourism industries.

This included the construction of new community sports facilities, introduction of bucket seats at stadiums across the country, as well as the adoption of e-enabled aspects of sporting activities, which facilitated pre-match bookings and e-ticketing, among other aspects.

“Such interventions should nurture talent across various sporting codes, including the development of sporting academies, and result in greater convenience for our sport-loving nation, while more efficient systems must see our clubs being professionally run and sustainably financed,” said President Mnangagwa.

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