Zimbabwe’s localised, restructured economy of the 2010s: Harare/Bulawayo vs Zimbabwean secondary cities

Smaller cities across Africa are projected to double/triple in population over the next 15-25 years.

Ways to classify Zimbabwean urban areas

Given the structural adjustment policies, decline in off-farm opportunities and remittance flows, access to productive land is a major factor in ensuring balanced growth and effective service delivery in Zimbabwe’s 7-tier hierarchy of urban areas:

consolidated villages,

business centers,

rural service centers,

district service centers,

growth points,

towns

and cities.

While in the drier parts of Zimbabwe, many people have taken to mining/mineral extraction as a source of livelihoods. Several million of them. On a regular basis.

As a result, over 70% of small-scale miners have some level of mercury poisoning.

In the colonial era, towns grew where there was economic activity.

Apart from the likes of Harare and Bulawayo, there were:

Mining towns: Zvishavane, Mashava, Hwange, Shurugwi, Kadoma and Kwekwe

Estate towns: Chiredzi and Triangle

White farming towns: Chinoyi, Bindura or West Nicholson

Consider setting up your second home in a smaller town of Zimbabwe

Land reform in Zimbabwe localised the economy. Increasingly, benefits are generated in towns like Mvurwi — home to 7,500 — in Mashonaland Central. Whereas Zimbabwean megalopolises — like the capital city Harare — suffer from unregulated construction, overpopulation, power and water cuts, underemployment and strained sanitation and waste management systems.

As of October 2016, some 1,100 tonnes of garbage were generated daily in Harare.  Twice as much as that found in Johannesburg. This is partly due to slack in managing the packaging of food stuffs. Over 70 % of  domestic waste in Harare is biodegradable. But who will lead the way in the hectic city of over 1,600,000 people.

Can you keep it clean with just two automated sweepers operated by the city council?

Bulawayo is a different story. But similar in many ways.

Now let’s look at what is happening outside Zimbabwe’s mega cities.

Growth point Maphisa in Matobo district, Matabeleland South had 6 supermarkets as of October 2016 (when before 2000 there were none), 8 butcheries (from 4), 5 hardware stores (from 1) and over 30 kombi operators.

The occupied high-density stands have shot up from 223 to 1,118, while the medium-density ones have increased from 121 to 498.

Of course you can say that Harare, Masvingo and Bulawayo have all of that and much more. But the question here is comparative growth potential and harmonizing the community. In the restructured, unequally distributed economy that Zimbabwe is, managing smaller communities with their localized economies is potentially more doable than the bigger, more diverse ones.

And in terms of quality of living — with fast (even though still relatively expensive) internet, plus off-grid power from renewables like solar — we vote for smaller towns as the engines of growth in Zimbabwe.

This is what makes Zimbabwe’s provincial urban areas tick

In Chatsworth, a small town between Masvingo and Gutu-Mpandawanda, high-density stands cost USD900, medium-density USD1,400 and low-density USD4,000.

To operate a butchery and food outlet another businessman pays monthly rent of USD350. Buying two-three beasts per week, he pays USD400 – USD500 per each  and sells meat to customers at USD5 per kg.

Yet another local entrepreneur opened a large supermarket in 2012 that gets up to 200 customers cross its doors every day. She employs 34 people.

Earned in a day in Zimbabwe’s secondary towns 

I used proceeds from the hardware store to educate my children and to build my house. I built another house at my parents’ home nearby, — a businesswoman from Gutu.

Two hardware shops generate about USD300 per day each selling ploughs, harrows, cultivators as well as building materials to residents developing their stands in Chatsworth.

A cattle owner in Maphisa gets around USD800 per beast in Bulawayo. And USD50 per goat.

A brick loader in Mvurwi can get USD8. A transporter can get USD80 after accounting for fuels. Open market vendors in Chatsworth, a growth point of over 1,000 residents (and one hair salon) in Gutu district, Masvingo province, generate about USD10.

Resettled farmers start to compete with the vendors for customers: selling door to door to residents and schools.

Value supply chain in/between Zimbabwe’s secondary cities

Agro-vendors in Chatsworth — mostly women without land — have amplified the economic effect. Making use of the good transport connection to Masvingo they have made significant profits, and are the new landlords in the town: now investing intensively in new building projects.

Open market vendor in Maphisa pays USD10 for the bus to and from Bulawayo, sometimes venturing into the City of Kings three times a week.

Whereas to ship cattle from Maphisa to Bulawayo, private transporters charge USD40 per animal.

About 90% of houses built in Mvurwi used common farm bricks. Bricks sell at USD30 per thousand plus add USD15 to transport them.

A three-tonne truck owner each quarter has to pay USD87 for the truck license.

Kombis plying the Chatsworth – Mpandawana route pay USD15-20 every day at the police road blocks for operating illegally. Gutu Council requires them to enter the Mupandawana Terminus to offload passengers. They pay USD2 for each entry.

I am forced to pick and offload customers door to door or at farm gate [using dirt roads] to remain popular and sustain business.

“It is expensive for people without own transport to buy building materials from Masvingo town and load it on the train [the train to Masvingo costs USD1] or public transport. Expenses of buying from afar forces them to buy from us,” shares a Chatsworth salesman.

Special thanks to Ian Scoones and his https://zimbabweland.wordpress.com/ blog

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