Investing in infrastructure driving our ambitions

11 Feb, 2024 - 00:02 0 Views
Investing in infrastructure driving our ambitions

The Sunday Mail

FOR the best part of 17 years after the turn of the millennium, Zimbabwe was stuck in a time warp, insofar as infrastructure development was concerned, as international financiers, such as the World Bank, turned off the taps due to sanctions imposed by the United Kingdom, the United States and the European Union (EU).

With little to no investment, our infrastructure decayed.

Our roads, railway and electricity generation and transmission infrastructure became problematic.
All this negatively impacted on economic growth and brought untold suffering to the generality of Zimbabweans.

However, the political transition in 2017, which ushered in the Second Republic, brought with it renewed hope of a change of fortune.

A needs assessment compiled by the African Development Bank (AfDB), through the Zimbabwe Infrastructure Report 2019, estimates that the country needs to invest close to US$3,3 billion per year up to 2030 to restore its infrastructure.

According to the bank, poor infrastructure is a critical barrier to accelerating growth and poverty reduction in Africa.

“Studies have shown that increasing the stock of infrastructure by 1 percent can add up to 1 percent to Gross Domestic Product.

“Infrastructure is considered a key component of the investment climate by reducing the costs of doing business and enabling people to access markets,” said the AfDB in its 2019 report.

“It is a precondition for private sector development and a key enabler of integration of regional sub-regional markets for intra-African trade, and positioning of a competitive Africa in world markets.

Investments in infrastructure are critical to advances in agriculture and fundamental to human development, including the delivery of health and education services to poor people.

“Infrastructure is an enormous untapped potential for the creation of productive employment.”

Happily, after the onerous task of restoring economic stability, through the Transitional Stabilisation Programme (2018-2020), we have seen the Government aggressively putting a significant portion of resources into capital projects.

We have had to dig deep to mobilise domestic resources to restore and expand our irrigation infrastructure, roads, dams, hospitals and power stations, among others.

Although it is still work in progress, the Beitbridge-Masvingo-Harare Highway is now a marvel.

The project is not only convenient for Zimbabweans, but it furthers the ongoing regional integration agenda by rehabilitating a key arterial route in the Southern African Development Community.

Lake Gwayi-Shangani — a project first mulled in 1912 by the colonial administration — is well-advanced and set to be completed this year, all things being equal.

Its impact will be immense, not only for the perennially parched city of Bulawayo, but also the communities in Matabeleland, whose lands would be turned into a life-giving greenbelt.

But, overall, as Zimbabweans, we have witnessed the positive correlation between infrastructure development and economic growth.

In essence, capital projects stimulate economic activity and have a multiplier effect on the economy.

To a significant extent, the impressive economic growth that has been witnessed in Zimbabwe over the past few years has been undergirded by such investments.

It is, therefore, unsurprising that the Government intends to double down on capital projects.

President Mnangagwa could not have made this any clearer when he addressed the first Cabinet sitting of the year on Tuesday.

He underlined the need for greater focus on key projects, including the Forbes Border Post modernisation, the Harare-Chirundu Highway, the Harare-Kanyemba Road, the Tugwi-Mukosi control tunnel and the recapitalisation of the National Railways of Zimbabwe.

He also indicated that the completion of the Mbudzi Interchange, the Gwayi-Shangani Dam and other strategic dams across our provinces will be expedited.

Transport and Infrastructural Development Minister Felix Mhona has since outlined some of the notable projects that will be undertaken this year, which include mini-interchanges and extensive work on roads in and around Harare.

So, 2024 is set to be another exciting year in terms of roadworks.

As sanctions remain extant — with the EU extending its sanctions on Zimbabwe last week — and with the El Niño phenomenon expected to adversely affect agricultural output in the 2023/2024 summer cropping season, economic activity generated from infrastructure development projects is likely to temper the significant headwinds facing our economy.

So, clearly, investment in infrastructure will create a sustainable pathway to Vision 2030.

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