The meeting between President Mnangagwa and the 10 provincial ministers this week came at an opportune time when calls to accelerate devolution are growing from various quarters.
There has been a widely shared view that devolution has been moving in the right direction since the advent of the New Dispensation in 2017, but the provinces have been lethargic in pushing the concept hard.
It is thus expected that the clarion call made by President Mnangagwa for the provincial ministers to put their shoulders to the wheel will be a wake-up call to quicken the pace.
Devolution signifies a new direction in how the country’s system of governance works to ensure tangible economic benefits for the people.
The idea is for provinces to spearhead the economic transformation of their areas, and then ultimately help the national economy grow.
Devolution is provided for in Chapter 14 of the Constitution, with its main goal being the equitable allocation of national resources and the participation of local communities in the determination of development priorities within their areas.
It entails that provinces should have economic and social indicators to track their development in terms of productivity, employment creation, export earnings and import substitution initiatives as part of the periodic provincial reports and briefs they present.
Zimbabwe is endowed with vast natural and human resources which have a potential to change its status by helping achieving the devolution agenda.
Some of the resources have not been exploited because of the bureaucratic nature of running the government on a single tier level, whose decisions may be difficult to cascade to the grassroots.
But devolution will provide a three-tier government system at central level, provincial level and local level.
This will empower people to make economic decisions which they can turn into tangible projects to help their communities grow.
Ultimately, there should be competition among the provinces in terms of their gross domestic product.
This calls for those leading the provinces to be innovative if they are going to survive the competitiveness that comes with devolution.
Provincial authorities should start mapping the way forward in terms of how they can pluck their areas out of poverty and help meet President Mnangagwa’s Vision 2030 which envisages the country becoming an upper middle income economy.
Each province has its own potential based on the types of resources available in certain areas, and the officials should be brainstorming on how they can become the first province to get rich.
This demands discarding old ways of doing business and adopting a positive frame of mind which leads to framing of strategies based on the regional situation and regional strength.
It is obviously a tough battle ahead as provincial leaders first shake off the poverty mentality themselves, before they convince everyone that as a province they can embark on a new trajectory that leads to poverty alleviation.
But what is most important is for people in the provinces to move in unity and unison and sing from the same hymn book.
In most cases, the devolution concept will be driven by mining, agriculture, infrastructure, manufacturing and tourism.
There are other necessities like human resources and skills that will be crucial in ensuring that the provinces succeed in driving their local economic growth.
In terms of human resources and skills, it is necessary that each province sets up local think tanks that can drive the devolution agenda through brain storming on the identified projects and programmes and how they can be implemented.
The provincial authorities should be able to mobilise all experts who hail from their respective areas and are professionals in various fields to help with their expertise on how certain projects can be done.
Compiling a roll of such people would make it easier for them to be called upon to offer their help, including advice on how to proceed in certain areas.
Another important area to move forward the devolution agenda is for the provinces to seek partnerships in various fields to ensure that resources are made available for certain projects.
In mining, for example, a partner can bring in equipment and new technologies that quicken the exploitation of the mineral resources for the benefit of the local communities.
Such win-win partnerships can help fill the gaps that exist in providing the means to exploit the abundant natural resources in the provinces.
The provinces should create conditions that are conducive to the attraction of both local and foreign investors to their areas to ensure the flow of capital for bigger projects.
Of course, central government has been providing a budget to the provinces for the last few years towards funding projects under devolution, but this money cannot be enough to embark on all the necessary projects.
The provinces should reserve certain areas for setting up Special Economic Zones where investors can do business under certain favourable conditions that ensures benefits for all stakeholders.
Such special trading zones are credited with the industrialisation of many developing countries, especially in Asia, after they attracted big corporates to set up industries.
This should be supported with value addition and beneficiation of products from these provinces, a move than can even result in the setting up of towns known for dealers in the particular products.
There should be fierce regional competition among the provinces in their contribution to economic growth, with each province being proud of setting a record in certain areas.
It will be interesting to see which province will get rich first in terms of the local GDP, a yard stick of how the devolution concept will have been effective to promoting economic growth.
What is important is to start laying the ground now for devolution to be a success, especially in rural provinces.
Transportation, which entails good road networks, should be a priority to ensure easy movement of people and goods and help integrate rural areas with urban areas.
Energy, including solar energy, should be availed to rural communities in preparation for industrial take-off that is expected to come as a result of devolution.
Provincial authorities should start identifying rural service centres at which they might want to set up industrial zones, creating employment and widening the production of goods.
Through devolution, the communication gap between rural and urban areas should be narrowed through the availing of information communication technologies.
At the click of a button, communities can change their lives for the better through acquiring knowledge on how to solve their developmental problems, and learning from others.
The presence of ICTs, especially in rural areas, brings benefits across the board, including in agriculture, education, health, general economic development and tourism.
It is important that President Mnangagwa’s Government has been at the forefront of kick-starting the provincial quest to devolution by providing some money through the national budget towards implementation of the concept.
The money was allocated to councils, some of which have already started implementing projects to uplift their areas.
What is unique about devolution is that it brings the decision-making process closer to the local communities, which are in a position to know the areas that need immediate attention for a quick turnaround of their fortunes.
For the first time in Zimbabwe, people are getting an opportunity to drive development within their localities, instead of having to wait for officials from offices kilometres away to lead the developmental processes.
Feedback: [email protected]