Financiers commit $2,3bn to education

Sharon Munjenjema
Funding commitments to the education sector following the Higher and Tertiary Education Infrastructure Investment Conference in Harare on March 9 have soared to $2,3 billion, The Sunday Mail has learnt.

Foreign and local investors have heeded President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s “Zimbabwe is Open for Business” call and have put forward projects to fund the education sector to the tune of over $2 billion in the five months since the conference.

Of particular interest has been the infrastructure deficit, where accommodation capacity at higher and tertiary institutions is 13 000 against enrolment of 178 000.

Government plans to house an additional 40 000 students by next year.

Higher and Tertiary Education, Science and Technology Development Minister Professor Amon Murwira told The Sunday Mail recently that, “We have raised $2,3 billion of signed contracts with local and foreign companies, in terms of infrastructure development only.

“The ones that have completed signed deals will start construction any time soon are about eight to ten. About 40 memoranda of understanding are in the process of being translated into final agreements. That is the process,” said Prof Murwira.

BancABC is expected to pour $12 million towards infrastructure at the National University of Science and Technology Medical School, as well as a shopping complex at the institution.

South West Group, a construction company headquartered in India, has committed to building learning hospitals at the University of Zimbabwe and Midlands State University, while Chinese Poly International Group will build student accommodation at State universities.

Census Equity and the Zimbabwe Diaspora Group will also begin construction soon in line with Government’s vision to create university towns. The latter has signed a $125 million deal with Government.

Stratfin Private Limited has committed $300 million towards a state-of-the-art hotel at the University of Zimbabwe campus. Feasibility studies have started.

Prof Murwira said, “Sometimes people may say there is so much signing of deals (without action), but, no, that is the required processes to take. Once a deal is signed, it means it’s now mandatory to do the work.

“Plans for construction are ready as they were requirements for the signing of the deal. President Mnangagwa’s administration has already achieved so much in this sector,” he said.

Prof Murwira said Government was using build-operate-transfer models to ensure transparency.

Through BOT, no money changes hands between Government officials and investors. Instead, investors manage their own finances, with Government setting timeframes and creating an enabling environment for implementation.

On the Students Access to Technology Programme, Government has finalised agreements with Liquid Telecom and DevTech, a Rwandese technology company.

Liquid Telecom will set up Internet infrastructure at institutions of higher and tertiary education and provide free WiFi.

A $5 million facility from DevTech will enable students to purchase laptops on credit.

Prof Murwira added: “Imagine paying for one laptop over a two-year period – that is very affordable. Students should approach universities’ administrations to get more details on this.

“We will be able, through education, to achieve a middle-income economy by 2030. With such an education system, we are going to have spin-off industries.”

Cabinet has approved plans to build innovation hubs and industrial parks as a means to link industry to higher learning.

Innovation hubs are at various stages of completion, while construction of industrial parks is expected to begin next year.

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