ACCELERATING the resuscitation of Bulawayo Industries is set to top the agenda of the newly elected Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries (CZI) Matabeleland Chapter executive which expressed confidence that the city can regain its once-envied industrial hub status.
Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries
The leadership said there is huge scope for the region to tap into its huge local and export markets potential.
Added to that, the entire Matabeleland region is endowed with vast mineral resources which when fully exploited can provide raw materials for many downstream industries.
The city lost a number of companies which either closed or relocated to Harare due to water water supply challenges leaving thousands of people jobless.
When the Second Republic came in, it came up with a number of ease-of-doing-business policies which has seen a number of companies being revived while others have increased production. The Government has also been assisting companies to retool hence a number of companies are back in production and creating employment.
Government has said it wants Bulawayo to regain its status as the country’s industrial hub and as such many companies are being assisted to retool inline with its resolve to develop a solid domestic industrial base which is a critical building block towards the attainment of an upper middle-income economy vision by 2030.
The city’s industry is showing signs of positive recovery in response to supportive Government measures.
For instance, the Government is nursing the revival of National Blankets, which was closed many years ago by assisting the company to retool.
Similar efforts have been made to boost the Cold Storage Company (CSC) through a deal with Boustead Beef, which culminated in the official re-opening of the giant beef processor by Vice President, Dr Constantino Chiwenga last year.
Coming from a background of closure of companies and loss of jobs experienced in the last two decades, the second largest city is now focused on revitalising its key industries, guided by the value chain model.
During the regional annual general meeting in Bulawayo yesterday, General Belting general manager Mr Joseph Gunda was elected president.
He takes over from Beitbridge Bulawayo Railway (BBR) general manager, Mr Raymond Shoniwa who served two terms.
In an interview, Mr Gunda told Business Chronicle that resuscitating companies in the region was his executive’s top priority.
Mr Joseph Gunda
He said there is a need for industrialists to regroup and come up with think tank to spearhead the turnaround drive.
“Going forward, we would like to engage the Government and craft proper guidelines on foreign investors, we want them (foreign investors) to incorporate local companies as they build up their factories,” he said.
“We do have local and export markets which should attract investors to our region and boost the growth of our industries. What is however important is to ensure that investors who come to Bulawayo, the region and beyond benefit local communities,” said Mr Gunda.
He said when the construction of the massive US$1,5 billion Dinson Iron and Steel Plant in the Manhize area of Chirumanzu District in the Midlands province is complete and operational, firms particularly in the foundry sector stand to benefit.
The steel sector is one of the dominant industries driving the economy of the city as it employs thousands of people.
Mr Gunda said the Matabeleland region has vast mineral resources and there is a need to take advantage of these minerals to grow the regional economy.
The new regional CZI vice president Mr Clive Oxden-Willows who is the managing director of Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Services Pvt Ltd said companies in Bulawayo need to access long tenure low-interest loans to retool.
Mr Oxden-Willows said loans with five percent interest and below paid over five to 15 years will go a long way in reviving companies as well as assisting them to retool.
Shepco group chief executive officer Mr Shepherd Chawira also said lack of sustainable and affordable funding was a major stumbling block to revival of companies.
“Most industries have antiquated equipment hence they need long-term finance at lower interest rates to retool. Companies cannot be competitive regionally and internationally using such old equipment for production,” he said.