The Sunday Mail
In my last instalment, I lamented the state of our capital Harare, which also finds replication in smaller cities and towns.
The feedback has been huge as citizens complain about the decay and, in some instances, non-existence of services and other ills that afflict our good old city.
I was also alerted that this past Friday, Harare Mayor Jacob Mafume, Harare Residents Association chairperson Precious Shumba and commentator Rejoice Ngwenya were having an open forum engagement to find solutions. We can only hope they made headway.
The challenges in the capital city are well-documented, so what is of utmost importance at this juncture is the implementation of solutions. The sun needs to shine again on this lovely city of ours.
And, as I stated last week, the challenges demand a confluence of minds. The levels are now beyond just the city fathers or brothers. The private sector, civil society and all stakeholders need to actively engage in finding and implementing solutions.
Challenges in any capital city become national in nature, going beyond geographical boundaries.
The fact remains that Zimbabwe and its people have the capability to solve any challenge once we are all determined and speak with one language. Nyika inovakwa nevene vayo.
Harare’s performance is a key determinant of the country’s welfare, so we would not want it to adversely affect the temperatures at big mining and other projects countrywide, which are set to transform this economy in a big way. Harare must play ball.
The economic contribution of cities the world over, real or potential, is grossly underestimated, outside of the provision of some basic services.
According to Knowledge4policy, cities are estimated to generate 80 percent of all economic growth. It also asserts that when a city’s population doubles, productivity level increases by 2-5 percent.
Factors which account for this include better labour distribution, education, entrepreneurship and cross-pollination of ideas.
The inherent capacity to create employment cannot be underestimated. Cities provide a platform that fosters innovation and creativity. They are uniquely placed to attract investment and, consequently, raise incomes.
There are a multitude of jobs cities offer. Equally, there are relatively easier opportunities to up-skill and move among jobs in some economies.
Young, ambitious and energetic workers find the glitz and glamour of cities irresistible. Cities, thus, become a confluence of human capital. It is easy to discern the reasons cities play such salient roles in the economic trajectories of countries.
When economic and human resources converge in one place, there is often the stimulation of innovation and development in a broad range of fields such as business, science and technology.
Access to critical services such as education, health, social services and cultural activities is more readily available in cities than in villages.
Knight Frank’s Africa Horizons 2021/2022 report identifies Nairobi, Kenya’s capital, as the best city in Africa. It is the country’s principal industrial centre. Railways are the single biggest industrial employer there, while light manufacturing industries produce beverages, cigarettes and processed food. Tourism is also very critical. Nairobi has a GDP per capita of US$6,344 while Harare’s is US$2,901, says the United Nations.
A report was also published by Statista, which specifically looked at the top eight business cities in Africa. The rankings were based on factors such as economic strength, gross domestic product (GDP) and infrastructure.
The results were as follows: (1) Cairo, (2) Algiers, (3) Johannesburg, (4) Casablanca, (5) Nairobi, (6) Cape Town, (7) Accra and (8) Lagos.
While Kigali, Rwanda’s capital city, may not have made it to the list, it is decidedly in ascendancy. The progress it has made is breathtaking, given its chequered and catastrophic past.
It has magically transformed a literal war zone into an aesthetically appealing city. It also has developed superb infrastructure, a result of meticulous planning and unfailing focus on the end game.
The results are there to see. Kigali is contributing substantially to Rwanda’s economic growth; it is one of the fastest on the continent. Investors are flocking there in droves. International conferences are hosted by Kigali with remarkable frequency, boosting its international standing.
Its tourism sector is growing at breakneck speed, as perhaps would be expected. l had an opportunity to chat to Zimbabwe’s Ambassador to Rwanda Professor Charity Manyeruke on my last visit to Rwanda in 2021. She had nothing but praise for Kigali, as was in clear evidence.
However one looks at it, cities have a defining role to play in economies. They are or should be a microcosm of what obtains in the rest of the economy.
Harare has the potential to do better and become the best city in Africa. Yes, it can. This is no wishful thinking nor is it a mirage but this city exudes immense potential to achieve this feat once we put our minds to it and polish up the areas identified as requiring action.
There are low-hanging fruits that can be done immediately, such as putting order in the central business district and enforcing bylaws to restore order.
Of course, the huge pothole and other infrastructure repairs may need a bit more time and resources, but nothing stops a determined heart.
Already, we have seen a lot of construction going on around the city, while infrastructure such as roads are being repaired.
A bit more energy in this regard will yield results.
So, indeed, we must, of necessity, optimise returns on our assets. These require methodical preservation, maintenance, upgrades and renovations.
We need to apply our minds and realise that when we take care of our city, the benefits are expansive.
Furthermore, there are individual and mutual benefits. A city can easily expedite a nation’s development and growth. It can also sustain it and spur it.
The possibilities are immense. But they will always remain possibilities if concomitant action is not taken. Therein lies the difference between progression and regression.
Demonstrably, cities contribute to national GDPs. It is evident in Nairobi, as it is in Kigali. It is also apparent in Cairo, as it is in Johannesburg.
What may differ is the magnitude of their contribution. That lies squarely on the powers that be and the countries’ citizenry.
The capacity to create employment and provide requisite infrastructure, as much as support business and industry, is infinite.
Cities play host to foreigners, be they investors or tourists, hence they should put their best foot forward. They also boost revenue variously.
Harare’s GDP per capita is low. It can be augmented . . . but only if we change our ways.
Below we reproduce a concern by Kuda Marazanye of Glen Lorne, who wrote:
Hi there, Victoria. I read your “Cry my beloved Harare” in today’s (last week’s) Sunday Mail and I couldn’t agree more with your sentiments in the piece. Can you also feature the decay in my Glen Lorne neighbourhood (corner Glen Helen Way and Muirfield Road, next to former Food Lovers), where public drinking and urination are the order of the day, and where illegal tuckshops openly sell alcohol and drugs, with council inspectors bribed to turn a blind eye
There is an influx of unemployed rovers in Glen Lorne, who invade houses left by landlords who have moved to old people’s homes. Some of the unemployed people have set up shebeens and illegal homes along the Glen Helen riverbanks.
In God I Trust!