by WELLINGTON TONI
HARARE, (ITNews Zimbabwe) – A LACK of policy that enables the participation of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in major infrastructural projects is impeding the growth of this sector and hindering the realisation of the Smart City concept in Zimbabwe.
Among these significant infrastructure projects is under establishment place in the Eastern Highlands city of Mutare to the border with Mozambique.
Called the Sakubva Urban Renewal Project, it is set to change the face of one of the oldest suburbs in Zimbabwe.
It envisages the building of modern flats and houses, a modern flea market and fresh produce market as well as a state of the art stadium worth US$900 million (R16.2 billion).
To be implemented in ten phases, it is anticipated to turn Mutare into a Smart City by 2030.
However, according to Joseline Sithole, an SME consultant and founder of Southern Africa Development Consultants (SODECO), there is little reward for the SME if there is no major policy shift.
“A big problem is the lack of adequate policy that deals specifically with participatory parameters for SMEs within such big infrastructure projects. The new policy drafted by government only compels local authorities to provide working space for small business,” Sithole said in an interview with ITNews Zimbabwe.
She recommended that Zimbabwe takes a cue from neighbouring countries.
“All infrastructural big projects bring with them what we call Technical Assistance and Expertise depending on the skills set. In South Africa it is compulsory for every company from overseas to draft a skills transfer plan in their proposal,” Sithole said.
In Ghana, the National Policy on Public Private Partnerships expounds Local Content and technology transfer as one of the key guiding principles.
In Malawi, the Public Private Partnership Policy is structured in a way that encourages the maximum use of local content and technology transfer.
Sithole pointed out that with most projects now Information and communications technology (ICT) driven, in the case of the Sakubva renewal project, a company coming into Zimbabwe could get students from the Africa University (AU) or Mutare Polytechnic and attach them to the project.
“You then monitor which skills have been transferred,” Sithole said.
Sithole said going forward, SMEs would develop their own infrastructure and get up to date technological equipment, skills and knowledge for the benefit of the country.
“SMEs can still benefit as some projects come with certain conditions. Some include physical offices, certain number of staff, certain types of advanced equipment and this assists them to professionalise their operations,” the expert said.
“When you supply big companies, you also plug into their different partners thereby growing your own partner base,” Sithole said, encouraging SMEs to take advantage of such projects.
She said it was imperative that such projects should have a foolproof skills while technology plan and local educational institutions should take advantage of the Mutare project and find internship opportunities for students.