Manicaland assured of Special Economic Zone status

The eastern border province will be designated as a Special Economic Zone (SEZ) in order to bolster business in the timber and mineral rich region, a senior government official has said.

Minister of State for Manicaland Province Chris Mushohwe.
Minister of State for Manicaland Province Chris Mushohwe.

Minister of State for Manicaland Province Chris Mushohwe revealed the development after lobbying from the Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries (CZI) Manicaland chapter led by provincial president Franky Kufa, who has been very vocal over the issue.

The chapter produced a position paper that argued that Manicaland is most suitable to be granted such status considering its vast endowments, which include tourist attractions, cash crops such as tea, bananas and apples; hydro-energy reserves due to its mountainous terrain and timber plantations worth $100 million in annual earnings if fully utilised.

It further indicated that the region poses lucid trade ties as it is situated 300 kilometers away from the Beira Corridor and is home to various mineral resources, chief among them the Chiadzwa diamond fields estimated to meet 25 percent of the world’s demand.

The recent CZI annual congress identified various strategic regions that they intend to lobby government to designate as SEZs. Manicaland is likely to get the first preference.

Mushohwe gave assurances that the eastern region would be designated as a SEZ. “I’m glad to say that Manicaland will be one of those provinces designated as economic zones. It is a welcome development.

“The establishment of these zones will significantly contribute to economic progression and emancipation. In line with Zim-Asset such a status would really make a difference in this province,” he said.

The manufacturing sector is currently operating at a sub-minimal capacity since 2000 as witnessed by the sharp decline in production levels. The average capacity utilisation of the manufacturing sector in the province is currently between 10 percent and 15 percent.

Mushohwe said SEZ status would enhance industrial competitiveness and attract foreign direct investment. He said industries had been hamstrung by a plethora of challenges.

SEZ are enshrined under Chapter Three of the economic blueprint Zim-Asset, which highlights the need for the establishment of such zones to fast-track the economic transformation.

Minister of Industry and Commerce Mike Bimha said the principles for the establishment of SEZ had been crafted and will be tabled to Cabinet in due course by the Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa.

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