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AFDB prepared to fund BCC master plan

THE Bulawayo City Council (BCC) has been advised to approach the African Development Bank (AFDB) to access possible funding worth US$600 million to implement the city’s master plan, in line with the country’s Regional, Town and Country Planning Act.

The local authority is currently in the process of reviewing its master plan which was prepared in 2000, as a review of the 1982 Master Plan, the first such plan produced in Zimbabwe under the then 1976, Regional, Town and Country Planning Act.

AFDB Executive Director, Dr Judith Kateera who was in Bulawayo this week, said the financial institution was moving towards funding large capital projects, as they were easier to monitor and were impactful to people.

“Hence the recommendation I’ve made to the (Bulawayo) mayor (Solomon Mguni) that they must start preparing their concept note for your master plan. $600 million is not a lot of money for the bank. It’s possible, it’s doable,” she said.

“I’ve seen other similar projects being funded by the bank but first and foremost, let’s be in good standing with the bank.”

Dr Kateera gave an example of Mozambique who received funding worth US$3,5 billion for nine projects they negotiated for at the last Africa Investment Forum held in South Africa in 2019.

The AFDB executive director who oversees Angola, Mozambique, Namibia and Zimbabwe in her portfolio, said supporting large projects was transformative and had a great impact on people.

“As I represent you on the board, the board has made a decision that we are having a plethora of small different projects nationwide, not just in Zimbabwe but throughout the continent, these projects become very difficult to monitor and implement if we have a plethora of these it takes a long time to make sure we have effective delivery to the people,” she said.

Dr Kateera said she was thoroughly impressed with the projects done by BCC.

She observed that compared with other projects elsewhere, AFDB faced serious implementation problems, particularly at the procurement stage where bids were rejected continuously while the other challenge was the human interface with money leading to corruption.

“We didn’t hear that word corruption here in Bulawayo. I want to thank the team,” she said.

Dr Kateera also noted that terms and conditions of AFDB loans were “very concessional.”

“I cannot be specific but what I know is the interest rates are as low as 1.75 percent, two to three percent maximum. The repayment period can range from 15, 20, 30 years depending on the magnitude of the project. But when dealing with a financial institution, simple banking principles 101, is if you borrow and fail to pay back, the bank will sanction you,” she said.

“Even if I were to borrow from Command Agriculture, if I fail to pay, they blacklist me until and when I have cleared my arrears and I’m in good standing with the financial  institution.”

The AFDB executive director noted that Zimbabwe’s financial standing with the bank was affected by “a lot of endogenous and exogenous factors.”

“I’m sorry to say as an economist, these are my personal views – sanctions also have a great role to play. Right now Zimbabwe cannot export, you try to export you lose that money. Talk to companies that have been exporting, you lose that money. This is all because of sanctions. I admit we also have our internal problems but should the government manage to clear these arrears, which is an assignment I’ve already briefed that there’s a lot of work that is in progress,” Dr Kateera said.

“Once the arrears are cleared and you are in good standing with the financial institution and all creditors. We should be able to access money for any of the big projects, not only from the bank but the bank can also assist us access funding from various other platforms like the Africa Investment Forum.”

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