Lavish villas, luxury townhouses, high-tech offices, landscaped gardens, and a 15-storey commercial tower. These aren’t the plans for the latest building development in Dubai but for a city in the suburbs of Harare, the capital of Zimbabwe.
During the late President Robert Mugabe’s administration, the idea to relocate Harare’s major business centre was proposed in 2012, leading to the construction of the massive parliament building in the same region. While the new parliament project was funded by China, the smart city project is progressing courtesy of investment from Dubai. Egypt also undertook to assist Zimbabwe in this huge infrastructural development project.
Despite having one of the world’s highest unemployment and inflation rates, a debilitating currency crisis, and falling foreign direct investment, the project is going ahead. The Southern African country is investing highly in a new smart city project with a view towards shifting the capital city to a much more technologically advanced environment.
Sitting on about 15,500 acres, the city is situated in an area called Mount Hampden. “This Cybercity is to be a key feature that will bring added value to our new city here. The development around the year for the smart city on 15,500 acres will be the smartest city in our region,” says Emmerson Mnangagwa, president of Zimbabwe.
The futuristic Cybercity is projected to anchor what city fathers view as the new capital city or the New Harare in the Mount Hampden area, 26 kilometers northwest of Harare. Estimated at $500 million, Zimbabwe Cyber City is being developed by United Arab Emirates-based industrial conglomerate Mulk International.
“We’ve been trying to bring the Dubai standard of living to this particular development. The project will have high-end villas, we call them Zim Hills, surrounding water bodies. We will have a very tall tower with the shopping center,” says Shaji ul Mulk, Mulk International chairman.
Other government offices will also be built in Mount Hampden to make the planned “New Harare” the seat of power, according to government officials. According to the administration, the city will be designed as a smart city, with an emphasis on information and communications technology to boost operational efficiency and improve the quality of government services and public welfare.
It is also expected to decongest Harare, Zimbabwe’s capital, whose population has grown dramatically from an estimated 616 000 in 1980 to around 2,3 million this year. The futuristic cyber city is also poised to give the planned new capital a modern commercial feel.
The project, covering 2.5 million square meters of land, will include 250 townhouses, more than 80 luxury villas, a number of apartment blocks, high-tech office facilities, a 15-storey commercial tower, and landscaped gardens – all within a gated community.
“The investment by the UAE (United Arab Emirates) investor in the Smart City Project is quite instrumental from the economic development point of view,” says Batanai Matsika, head of research, Morgan & Co.
“So of course, we expect businesses to benefit, local businesses to benefit out of that employment creation and the development of basic infrastructure. We are seeing a huge infrastructure gap in Zimbabwe and we think that those kinds of investments would actually catapult us in reaching our vision 2030 objectives to be a middle-income nation.”
Zimbabwe is aiming to lure more foreign direct investment to boost its economy following the coronavirus-induced slowdown, the general investor flight following decades of western sanctions, political upheaval, policy inconsistencies, and unrelenting economic problems.
Foreign Direct Investment inflows declined to $194 million in 2020, from $745 million in 2018, before the onset of COVID-19, according to data from the UN Conference on Trade and Development.
Once complete, the new city is set to provide relief for shoppers and businesses, away from Harare’s crowded CBD.
Sources: Africa News