SA-based tycoon pours US$1,7m into local retail venture

The Chronicle

Nqobile Tshili, Chronicle Reporter

A SOUTH Africa-based Zimbabwean businessman has poured in an investment of US$1,7 million in the retail business in Bulawayo and has set his eyes towards decongesting the city centre through providing quality services at the docile Nkulumane Shopping Mall.

Mr Mpumelelo Phiri (37), who runs Ngamla Enterprises, is set to open a supermarket and wholesale shop at Nkulumane Shopping Mall soon.

Enthused by the Second Republic’s philosophy “Ilizwe lakhiwa ngabaninilo/ Nyika inovakwa nevene vayo”, Mr Phiri is taking the lead in righting what he believes is a situation that was allowed to get out of hand.

He praised Government for taming runaway parallel market rates, saying this improved the ease of doing business in the country.

The Nkulumane Shopping Mall, which was part of the city’s council strategy to decongest the city centre in the 1990s, has become a pale shadow of its former self, with most of the shops in the area unoccupied.

At its prime, it used to house the giant retail shops in the country — Pick-n-Pay and OK — while several banks were also housed in the same facility.

But the de-industrialisation that hit the city after 2005 resulted in most shops that were housed in the area closing down, while others are relocating to the city centre.

Mr Phiri and his management believe that while Nkulumane Mall has been unattractive for most residents, it has the potential to attract clients.

Ngamla supermarket

He said growing up in Magwegwe North, his parents would send him to shop at Nkulumane Complex  hence his decision to set up an outlet at the neglected shopping centre.

Only a few shops operate from Nkulumane Mall.

“When we were young, we used to walk to Nkulumane Complex when there was still OK and TM (Pick-n-Pay). I still believe that Nkulumane Mall has the potential and that the building meets international standards compared to many buildings in the city centre,” he said.

Mr Phiri said the shopping area has become even more attractive considering the inconvenient parking situation in the city centre where motorists have to pay US$1 hourly.

Most businesses have complained that the Bulawayo City Council and Tendy Three Investment smart parking arrangement is affecting their business.

“I was affected by that problem because I have a shop by Robert Mugabe Way and 9th Avenue. Parking was an issue. I was a victim of parking, I would park outside and by the time I returned, I would be clamped. So, when I came to Nkulumane Complex, I saw an opportunity: There is parking and there is space,” said Mr Phiri

He said providing quality services will attract residents back to shopping at Nkulumane Mall and he has made a US$1,7 million investment to ensure that he gives customers value for money.

Mr Phiri said when his shop opens on Friday, it will be offering services that are offered by other retail giants in the city centre and eastern suburb malls.

“With the Nkulumane Complex, I wanted to open in February, but my concept changed and I said I want to put a state-of-the-art shop. I wanted it to look like a shop that is owned by a group like Pick-n-Pay or Checkers. I can do it! So, I told myself that I would take my time,” said Mr Phiri.

“I wanted to come up with a concept that will talk about me because I like high-standard quality goods. So, I invested a lot of money. So, on equipment and renovations, I’m sitting on US$1 million and stocks plus or minus US$700 000.”

 He said the retail and wholesale shop will also have a bakery, butchery, deli, and ice cream bar under one roof.

A Chronicle news crew last Thursday visited his shop and observed that renovations were taking place. Machinery had been installed in the various departments of the shop.

He occupied what used to be OK Supermarket.

Mr Phiri commended Government for bringing discipline in the money markets and stabilising the exchange rate where the official and the parallel rates are almost at par.

“When I started at the end of 2020, there was a challenge of RTGS rates shooting up. And we had to buy money in the streets in order to buy goods from South Africa because when you are in business you need to bring goods that will attract customers,” said Mr Phiri.

“But fortunate enough, I don’t know what magic was done now, the official rate and black market are almost at par. And for almost six months now it has been the case. I think things are stabilising.”

He said stability in exchange rates ensures that business does not inflate prices and short-change, especially those who earn local currency.

Ngamla Enterprise managing director Mrs Sithobekile Msasa said about 100 people would be employed at the new shop.

She said the company expects to have recouped its investment in eight months, before making profits. 

“Between six to eight months we expect to have covered what we would have spent in business. We expect to be making profits thereafter. We are looking forward to having about 80 to 100 employees which include the till operators, merchandisers, security, management staff and cleaning staff,” she said.

Mrs Msasa said as Bulawayo suburbs continue expanding there is a need to decongest shopping in the city centre and bring convenience to people’s door steps. 

“We have our people coming from Nkulumane, Pumula South and other suburbs which are really expanding. So, there is no need for them to be travelling to town. We want to bring a semi-city centre environment here. We want to bring life to the suburbs,” said Mrs Msasa.

Meanwhile, Mr Phiri said he decided to invest back into the country after observing that some Diasporans were buying lavish property in neighbouring countries without investing back home.

Ngamla supermarket

He said the outbreak of Covid-19 pandemic created a lot of job opportunities for him in South Africa providing the financial muscle to invest back in his motherland.

“During Covid-19 in 2020 we were busy building hospitals and I was making a lot of money. And I thought to myself that I may end up dying and a lot of my friends had mansions in South Africa, but nothing at home so I thought of investing back at home so that whatever happens to me, my kids and my sisters are safe,” he said.

“I have invested in retail, I have a construction company, I have 350 stands at Lower Rangemore where I build houses and sell them on mortgage. So, I want to do construction and property development. I chose retail because it has cash every day, but in construction, you wait for a single payment in three months.”

Mr Phiri last Thursday handed over a renovated and extended house belonging to liberation stalwart Cde David Moyo, also known as Sharp Shooter.

He said this was a way of paying back former freedom fighters as their sacrifices have enabled blacks to invest and own businesses, something that was difficult during the colonial era. – @nqotshili

Article Source: The Chronicle

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