Nqobile Tshili, Chronicle Reporter
THE transformation of Figtree settlement into a smart city has started taking shape with technical teams working with Bulilima Rural District Council as Government moves to fully implement the smart cities concept in line with the recently launched climate policy.
Government adopted the smart city concept which is a global phenomenon as part of the country’s modernisation thrust.
The smart city concept will see the development of Figtree as a tributary town to Bulawayo as efforts to ease congestion in major cities gathers pace.
Figtree is 38km from Bulawayo along Plumtree Road in Matabeleland South province. Its development is expected to create employment while easing infrastructure pressure caused by Bulawayo’s a growing population.
The pursuance of the smart cities concept by the Government is complemented by the country’s citizens who are building modern structures in the rural areas, a departure from the past when rural areas were largely viewed as retiring places instead of productive settlements that can have industries to curb rural to urban migration.
The Government last year sent a team led by the Minister of Local Government and Public Works, Cde July Moyo to the United Arab Emirates to study how best the concept can be implemented.
Bulilima RDC is in the process of acquiring land from private land owners to enable the implementation of the project.
At the moment there is little development in Figtree with most of the houses still to be electrified.
Under the smart city concept Figtree has to create industries and most houses and even industries should be solar powered. The town should be dominated by high-rise buildings in order to optimise on the available land.
In an interview yesterday, Bulilima RDC acting executive officer Mr Biliati Mlauzi said the local authority is keen on the development of Figtree into a smart city as the concept will put Bulilima district on the map. Mr Mlauzi said while in the past Bulilima RDC mainly focused on provision of housing stands, the new thrust will see them providing commercial stands as well .
“Technical officials from the Ministry of National Housing and Social Amenities recently visited our offices to discuss how to transform Figtree into a smart city. As a local authority we are planning towards a smart city in Figtree in line with Government’s resolution,” he said
“We are also in consultation with people that want to invest in that project. In Figtree we were concentrating on residential stands but in terms of commercial stands we had not done much. So, we are engaging private land owners so that we can buy their land.”
Most of the private land in Figtree is owned by farmers.
Mr Mlauzi said under the new model, Figtree is expected to accommodate home seekers, including those who work in Bulawayo.
“It will be an advantage to us in terms of revenue generation as we will be having people staying in Figtree while working in Bulawayo. So, they will be driving from Figtree like what some of the people do in countries such as South Africa where people live in another city while working in another town,” he said.
“This is what is happening in Norton and Chitungwiza.”
Mr Mlauzi said while addressing delegates during the just ended Local Authorities’ Councillors and Staff Indaba in Harare, National Housing and Social Amenities Minister Daniel Garwe, highlighted that Government is in the process of identifying investors to develop Figtree into a smart city.
Figtree businessman Mr Christopher Masuku said the proposed transformation of the area into a smart city is welcome development.
“We have heard about this yet we are not sure what this smart city is all about. We want to be briefed so that we can also plan ahead in order to take advantage of the opportunities as opposed to having only outsiders benefiting from these opportunities,” he said.
Mr Masuku said Figtree was very convenient because it was just a 20- minute drive from Bulawayo. Bulawayo City Council business development officer, Mr Kholisani Moyo who is also an expert in smart city development projects, said there is need for serious investment if Figtree is to be turned into a smart city.
Bulawayo is already working towards the transformation of the city into a smart city. Mr Moyo said smart cities are driven by the adoption of information communication technologies, renewable energy sources, recycling of water and high-rise buildings. Mr Moyo said a smart city needs to be unique as opposed to what members of the public have been accustomed to.
“A smart city needs a lot of things that will make it unique, it needs to be anchored on an industry not just the availability of land. For instance, Government, is developing Mount Hampden into a smart city and a Parliament building has been built there,” he said.
“We expect that the roads should also conform to smart city standards.”
He said the development of a smart city is in line with the national vision of transforming the country into an upper middle-income economy by 2030. Mr Moyo said the National Development Strategy 1 (NDS 1) which is running from 2021- 2025 is expected to lay the foundation for development of smart cities.
Minister Garwe recently said other places to be developed to curb rural urban migration are Melfort and Chirundu while plans are also underway to decongest Mutare, among other areas. He said developing these cities will mean decentralisation of services from major cities to make it easy for people in towns like Plumtree and other areas to access them. “The Government is working towards decongesting cities such as Bulawayo, Harare, Mutare and others. The systems that were put in these cities can no longer sustain the growing population which is why we are witnessing a high number of collapsing sewage systems while some places have been without running water for years,” said Minister Garwe
Article Source: The Chronicle