Nqobile Tshili, Chronicle Reporter
Bulilima Rural District Council has offered a 100-hectare farm for the development of Figtree into a smart city whose transformation will be anchored on digitisation and adoption of green energy.
Cabinet last year resolved that Figtree in Bulilima District in Matabeleland South be transformed into a smart city.
While there has been speculation that Figtree will be developed into a dormitory city for Bulawayo, Government said it will be a stand-alone city.
Figtree is expected to be an agro-business centred city taking advantage of already existing productive agriculture enterprises in the area.
Its planned development is part of the Zimbabwe National Human Settlements Policy (ZNHSP) which will result in the construction of modern, sustainable and affordable human settlements.
Government is in the process of developing the country into an upper middle income economy by 2030.
Responding to Chronicle questions, National Housing and Social Amenities Minister Daniel Garwe said Government is working on designs for the development of the smart city.
“This transformation is anchored on digitisation and green energy use. The Ministry of National Housing and Social Amenities has endeavoured to move with time and adopt strategies that conform to the dictates of the digitalised world and globalisation,” said Minister Garwe.
“In light of this, plans to develop smart cities are at an advanced stage. The Ministry has put requisite modalities in place and now awaits transfer of land from relevant authorities. Meanwhile, Bulilima Rural District Council has offered a 100-ha farm to be incorporated into the smart city.”
He said the Ministry directed Bulilima, Mangwe and Matobo to liaise and create a land bank for the smart city.
Minister Garwe said investors are showing interest in financing the development of Figtree into a smart city. He said Figtree has a population of 3 000 people and it is expected to increase in the next five years in line with the expected developments.
“Yes, there is already interest by a consortium of pension and provident funds, financial sector inclusive of banking institutions, developers fronted by backbone utilities, asset management entities, realtors and other investors,” said Minister Garwe.
“The introduction of investors in developing these areas will also ensure that the cost of settlement goods and services is kept at a bare minimum due to competition.”
Minister Garwe said smart cities such as Figtree, Melfort in Mashonaland East and Chirundu in Mashonaland West province will be driven by information and communication technologies (ICTs).
“The idea is to develop compact precincts with a view to promote cities that provide core infrastructure and give a decent quality of life to citizens, a clean and sustainable environment and the application of ICT based solutions. This approach is not meant to create dormitory towns for main cities such as Bulawayo, but meant to develop growth nodal centres into compact self-sustaining settlements,” said Minister Garwe.
He said this will promote the development of rural areas and decongest major towns.
Minister Garwe said smart cities will provide solutions to rapid urbanisation and will significantly impact positively on economic growth and the quality of life for citizens.
“Smart cities are modern settlements that respond to sustainable human development requirements, use digital technologies to manage water, sewerage, public lighting and other enabling infrastructure thus more efficient and offering cleaner services where residents enjoy better connectivity, ambience and convenience,” said Minister Garwe.
He said smart cities will spur economic growth through the creation of new industries while contributing to improved livelihoods.
“In the case of Figtree, the development of the smart city will boost the horticultural and farming activities such as cattle ranching already dominating in this area. It has potential to bring with it the introduction of food and meat processing companies as well as tanneries,” he said.
“Based on the current activities, agri-business related industries will come to the fore inclusive of food and meat processing companies as well as tanneries.
“There is an insatiable appetite in the private sector for investment opportunities and this can potentially create other economic zones and opportunities.”
He said Zimbabwe cannot be left behind in terms of development of smart cities citing a Barclays Bank report and analysts who predict that smart cities have the potential to generate US$20 trillion in economic benefits by 2026.
He said Figtree is expected to relieve housing demand for Bulawayo, whose waiting list has surpassed 100 000.
Minister Garwe said development of smart cities is expected to reverse the rural-urban migration and even result in urban-rural migration.
He said the project is in sync with President Mnangagwa’s vision of transforming the country into an upper middle-income economy by 2030.
“All of these infrastructural developments, including the development of smart cities are in line with Vision 2030, where as a nation we envisage that we would have transformed into a prosperous upper-middle income economy.
“Within this vision, the Government of Zimbabwe, through the Ministry of National Housing and Social Amenities launched the ZNHSP whose implementation should result in modern, sustainable and affordable human settlements such as the Figtree smart city,” he said. — @nqotshili
Article Source: The Chronicle