President Emmerson Mnangagwa says Zimbabwe is on the cusp of a construction boom that has seen the country building roads, dams, houses and clinics but it now needs at least nine interventions to sustain the boom which is critical for boosting the country gross domestic product as it vies to attain upper middle income status within the next seven years.
Writing in his weekly column in the Sunday Mail, Mngangagwa listed the nine things Zimbabwe has to do as:
- First, we have to keep fighting inflation. The cost of money must remain low to stimulate investments in, and to encourage borrowing for, this sector. That includes the mortgage sector. We have to fight rising costs in the building industry, principally those related to building materials.
- Second, our construction industry must continue to invest in new technologies which bring greater efficiencies while meeting the needs of our fragile physical environment and ecosystems. The use of steel and aluminium will go quite some way in ensuring more housing units are delivered in shortest possible time, at least cost, while meeting environmental standards.
- Third, we have to deal with the problem of informalisation of human settlements, which has a direct bearing on the construction industry, principally the residential subsector. All unplanned settlements need to be regularised after proper geo-spatial surveys and proper land-use plans which protect our delicate environment, principally our wetlands and water sources.
- Fourth, we have to find a formulae for delivering basic amenities and services at all settlements. Broken and dysfunctional municipalities have cost us greatly, including creating chaotic settlements which do not have even the most rudimentary amenities. Central Government might have to intervene to ameliorate this sorry situation. The hazards to public health are enormous, and require very urgent preventive interventions.
- Fifth, land for construction is finite. We thus have to move towards densification in our human settlement plans so we use residential and non-residential construction land optimally. I am happy this is beginning to happen, including at rural growth points where blocks of flats for Government workers are now being piloted, Mutawatawa in Uzumba-Maramba-Pfungwe being a case in point. Our human settlement plan requires that 40 percent of allocated land should go towards construction of flats.
- Sixth, while rural housing has been progressing remarkably well, especially at rural growth points, I am concerned that the supply of key amenities, including water, sewer services, all-weather roads and electricity, seem to lag behind. This thrust should also ensure traditional blair toilets are upgraded to modern flushable systems. With our plans for rural industrialisation, it is critically important that we plan for bigger, agglomerated settlements in rural areas.
- Seventh, and related to rural housing, I am happy that alternative sources of power are being harnessed to service most modern rural settlements. This is in line with our goal of removing households from our national power grid through solar technologies. What makes me anxious is that new, ultra-modern housing structures which are being built in rural areas do not enjoy insurance cover. I therefore task the insurance industry to come forward with suggestions for Government to consider, so this urgent area is addressed.
- Eighth, I am happy that the area of mortgages is now receiving attention, with the relevant ministry developing three models which ensure more Zimbabweans, including those in the diaspora and in informal employment, are able to access homes and properties. In the same vein, I want to encourage insurance and pension funds to do more to increase supply in housing.
- Ninth, and quite critical in my view, we need reliable data so output and value in the whole construction sector is captured and reflects in our Gross Domestic Product, GDP. This is not happening currently, resulting in an unhappy situation where our GDP is understated and undervalued.
Continued next page