Figtree earmarked for smart city status

Figtree in Bulilima district under Matabeleland South province has been identified as one of the three places in the country to be transformed into a smart city, anchored on digitalisation and green energy use.

This was disclosed by the Minister of National Housing and Social Amenities, Daniel Garwe, who noted his ministry was aiming to develop smart cities in Zimbabwe. 

“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,” Garwe said at a forum on Zimbabwe Smart Cities and Rural Communities Infrastructure held in Bulawayo recently.

“This has culminated in the adoption of the Smart City concept. We have prioritised three pilot projects to kick-start the whole process, that is, Melfort in Mashonaland East Province, Figtree in Matabeleland South Province and Chirundu in Mashonaland West Province.”

The minister noted that ideally, these would be completely new cities that are to be anchored on digitalisation and green energy where people “Live, Work and Play”. 

“This implies that we are not there to create a dormitory town for Bulawayo for instance, with the case of Figtree,” he stated.

“The Smart City Concept is at the core of the Ministry’s desire to see a transformed urban setting across the length and breadth of our beautiful nation, where we are desirous to have ‘Modern sustainable and affordable human settlements for Zimbabwe by 2030.” 

However, the minister acknowledged turning places into smart cities was not an event but a process, with proper procedures to be observed and wider consultations conducted. 

“The implementation will be phased, with the first phase encompassing stakeholder consultation, detailed feasibility studies and planning. We have initiated preliminary consultations for Melfort and Chirundu and now we are targeting Figtree within this second quarter,” he said.

Although the government was there to promote the idea, implementation would be done by the respective local authorities and the private sector.

“Local authorities and the private sector are the prime movers of the concept when it comes to implementation and stakeholder participation. There is an insatiable appetite in the private sector for such investment opportunities, especially from the insurance and pension funds, the financial sector, asset management entities, realtors and other investors,” the housing minister noted. 

“Critical at this juncture is the packaging of the concept, mainstreaming the opportunities as well as roles and responsibilities in line with the provisions of the Zimbabwean laws guiding investment in Zimbabwe.”

Garwe added it was vital to highlight that the government’s thrust is not only on new cities but on the conventional urban settlements, which needed regeneration and renewal in line with the recently launched Zimbabwe National Human Settlements Policy. 

“A case in point is that, Bulawayo City Council is working on the regeneration of Makokoba, Mutare is working Sakubva, Harare is working on Mbare and Victoria Falls is working on Chinotiba and the low density, to mention but a few. We do not expect a replica of the pre-colonial Makokoba, Sakubva, Mbare or Chinotimba with the tired designs and service provision post urban renewal,” he said.

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