Kudzanai Gerede Business Correspondent—
Plans by the Government to decentralize key economic segments according to provincial comparative advantages will see Manicaland become a diamond beneficiation centre and forestry production forte, a development expected to unravel the economic potential of the country’s eastern province, experts have said.Recently, Vice President General Costantino Chiwenga spelt out Government‘s devolution master plan in Harare, where he also hinted that Harare metropolitan province would assume the Information Communication Technology (ICT) centre hub status, while Bulawayo will be the industrial nucleus of the country with Midlands province set to be a steel and iron value chain beneficiation province.
The development comes at a time there were rising concerns among economic observers that the country’s economic structure was too Harare-centric, hence was restricting other provinces from realizing maximum potential to national contribution.
Manicaland province is home to one of the world’s biggest diamond deposits yet it remains underdeveloped.
“Manicaland is where we find our largest diamonds deposits, and they will be given the diamond beneficiation responsibility, the timber industry and everything to do with forestry will be in Manicaland as well as fruits. The Eastern highlands are best for growing fruits. So each province will do what best they know and contribute to the national GDP,” said Vice President Chiwenga.
Trade and competitiveness expert Dr Gift Mugano in an interview with Post Business said Manicaland stands to benefit from this arrangement as it empowers local communities to benefit more from their resources, while contributing effectively to the national GDP.
“It basically gives key economic players in Manicaland relevance and it’s in line with what the President has been saying, that some ministers of State were just seated in office so by this devolution it then wakes them up as this will give a measure of their performance.
“It creates competition among provinces as we can now set and measure provincial GDP in line with what is actually the province’s competitive advantage which then combined will ensure national GDP is improved,” he said.
Added Dr Mugano: “We notice the economy is very Harare-centric and this has been stifling potential of some provinces so this idea works and we have seen it in Ghana where each district must export a product, it has happened in Rwanda and even in South Africa where they can be able to say the Cape Province is the poorest in terms of output then you look at ways to improve production in these areas.”
With the province already given Special Economic Zones status, there is great optimism that the development will also attract sector-specific investment rather than a random call for investment in Zimbabwe.
Manicaland SMEs president Andrew Ngondonga said decentralization will be crucial in promoting small to medium enterprises operations in various provinces as beneficiation efforts will trickle down to the micro economy which hosts the largest segment of economically active population.
“We welcome the development as this will also ensure that even micro economic players like us will take part in beneficiation programmes from the big commercial companies that will be spearheading production, diamond mining and the forestry sector in Manicaland.
“We however ask the municipal authorities to grant us more working space in order to capitalize on these envisioned opportunities. For instance, furniture makers need more space to operate from as we anticipate growth in forestry and timber production in Manicaland,” he added.
The country’s first ever Central Business Registry (CBR) Inquiry Report in 2015, showed Manicaland province had the highest number business establishments in the country but due to centralization to Harare in economic projects, the province fell far off from Harare in terms of revenue turnover, profitability and employment figures.