Category Archives: Africa and branding

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,


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 blog


Make sense of this gap in Namibia’s infrastructure funding

The Southern African nation of some two and a half million has a funding gap of N$150 billion (over US$10bn) for upgrading infrastructure including railways, roads, housing, ports and airports.

With nominal GDP at US$13.7bn, 5% of Namibia’s national budget is used to fund infrastructure development.

Namibia infrastructure funding 2016 on
Namibia infrastructure funding 2016 on

Watch smaller smart cities as they emerge in Africa

this survey by Andy Kozlov was first published on Smart City Africa site

“Creating decentralized strategies”

Some 75 % of global population live in urban settlements of fewer than 500,000 people. The figure will only get higher with time. Smaller cities, especially across Africa, are projected to double/triple in population over the next 15-25 years. Secondary cities vary considerably in size. In China, some have populations of over five million, while in Ethiopia they have fewer than 200,000.

“Job Opportunities”

Creating decentralized strategies to provide basic services to smaller “intermediate” cities and towns can facilitate the transition between rural and non-rural activities and take pressure off Africa’s megacities.


“Taking pressure off Africa’s megacities”

“This is where most investment and urban planning need to take place: equipping [Intermediate cities] with proper infrastructure, helping deliver basic services and enabling them for the generation of job opportunities,” argues Edgar Pieterse of the African Centre for Cities.
In West Africa, Ghana works to relieve pressure on Accra and Kumasi by building the capacity of local government, training planners and local councillors in smaller cities. On the other side of the continent, in Uganda, a partnership between Belgium-based Cities Alliance and the British Department for International Development focuses on 14 secondary cities, to boost the long-term planning capacities of local governments and assit slum dwellers.

“Rolling out broadband”

“In most African cities, planning is done short term, in five-year or maybe ten-year plans. It’s important for these cities to increase their planning horizons to 30 years,” explains Samuel Mabala of Cities Alliance.

Connect smaller cities to the world outside the national borders

Smart city analysts from across the Atlantic argue that broadband has become the great economic leveler of our time. Any small place that is home to an industrial or post-industrial economy, that is “robustly connected” can be a global competitor.

“Cities where  we live for the sake of the place”

If small cities in the middle of nowhere become hotbeds of company formation in the United States, can’t their African peers follow, follow fast? How significant is the number of places in Africa where people want to live for the sake of the place, not just a paycheck?

Create positive change by tapping into the land market

One thing is certain: land in Mohammedia, a port city on the west coast of Morocco between Casablanca and Rabat, can be cheaper for its population of 188,619 than in Nairobi, Kenya, home to some 3 million people. And all these African cities mentioned above have one enormous advantage over tech hubs like Silicon Valley, Austin, Boston or New York.  Land is cheap.
Mohammedia, a port city on the west coast of Morocco between Casablanca and Rabat
Mohammedia, a port city on the west coast of Morocco between Casablanca and Rabat
As James Fallows, a national correspondent for The Atlantic, puts it “‘Every calculation – the cash flow you must maintain, the life balance you can work toward – is different when a nice family house costs a few hundred thousand dollars rather than a few million.” Again, in smaller African cities that family house can cost you well south of USD100,000.

“Cheaper rental prices, and a higher growth potential”

Take Koforidua, Eastern Region in south Ghana (some 130,000 people). An almost completed two-bedroom house with double garage and a large plot surrounding it trades in Koforidua for GH₵ 249,600 (Fixed USD price: $ 64,000).


By investing in smaller cities, real estate developers and industry professionals benefit from lower operating costs, greater space and scenery for construction, lower costs for resources and building materials. While bigger economic capitals have the advantage over smaller, lesser known cities — due to greater recognition around the world — cheaper rental prices, less competition, and a higher growth potential is enabling smaller emerging cities in Africa to rise to the challenge.

Coupled with reliable broadband and state-of-the-art medical services, smaller African cities — oftentimes a step away from breathtaking natural beauty — are to become your idea of a city of the 21st century.
University of Kikwit in DRC. Intermediary city of Kikwit  is home to some 400,000 people in the southwestern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo. Source:
University of Kikwit in DRC. Intermediary city of Kikwit is home to some 400,000 people in the southwestern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo. Source:

Get smart about attracting investors

The picture is not without pitfalls of course. Laura Mann, International Development department at London School of Economics (LSE), observes that on the national level African policy-makers should think much more strategically about how African nations can capture value within their economies through the proliferation of information technologies and the deepening of the digital economy.

“National policies that fund local R&D and training programmes”

Recent reports by institutions like UNECA, UNCTAD and UNIDO suggest that African governments need to be extremely strategic in their dealings with foreign companies; to make sure those investments and activities contribute to raising the skill level in African countries, providing outsourcing and procurement opportunities for local businesses and paying taxes that can fund local R&D and training programmes.

But it is a two-way road. National government in Kenya tried to promote Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) by subsidising the cost of bandwidth to all BPO companies that wanted to try to engage in the sector. Some unskilled local companies received that support, and harmed the overall reputation of Kenyan firms in the eyes of international clients.

“Making African economies more predictable”

As more African governments shift to e-governance and more city dwellers use mobiles, internet connections and smartcards, massive amounts of transactional data is generated. This makes African economies more predictable, smaller cities in Africa more visible to foreign investors. Back to LSE wisdom on smart cities in Africa:


Behind the widely circulated images of slum dwellers using mobile technologies to improve daily lives, the dominance of large ICT companies, a splintered urban landscape, land dispossession and the securitisation of urban space reveal a more complicated potential smart urban future.

Smaller African cities will have to be smart about opening markets and opportunities, a policy that should primarily contribute to development of their own communities — rather than large corporations or the local elites.

La Cite du Fleuve, in DR Congo is creating a series of overlapping sources of tension in Kinshasa including struggles around land ownership and issues of dispossession that begin to lay bare the rhetoric of smart urban developments across Africa.

There are two core problems with housing urban populations in smaller cities as they grow: land is not made available for new settlements and people aren’t able to afford the type of houses that are built.

Empower your city residents

Beyond the narrative that tends to put smart city Africa into the realm of technology, smaller African cities should guard against becoming exclusive enclaves or archipelagos of high technology. Smart African communities should prioritize people and avoid withdrawing from the wider city.

“Getting beyong exclusive enclaves and archipelagos of high technology”

Function and role – as opposed to population size – are now defining an intermediary city’s status within the global network of cities. In this context, talent attraction and retention become factors that differentiate Gondar, a secondary city of 358,257 in the north of Ethiopia from Kikwit  (home to some 400,000 people)  in the southwestern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo.
 Gondar, a secondary city of 358,257 in the north of Ethiopia
Gondar, a secondary city of 358,257 in the north of Ethiopia
Research and technology development are particularly important assets that help to differentiate city economies from each other, resulting in an emphasis on industrial specialization and the role of universities.


Smart specialization strategies promoted by the European Union are designed to encourage each region to identify transformation priorities that reflect and amplify existing local structures and competencies, and thus produce original and unique competitive advantages.

Harare’s 198 traffic lights, 99-year solar farm leases & one 8m wind mast in Bulawayo

As Southern African nation of Zimbabwe develops, it faces power deficit. With daily electricity demand in Zimbabwean cities taking over supply,  government encourages independent private producers to step in.

On behalf of Smart City Africa, Andy Kozlov caught up with Harare, Zimbabwe-based Brian Zwomoyo Sekete, a renewable energy and smart metering expert.

Andy Kozlov: Who should one revert to for most updated picture on energy needs in Zimbabwean cities?

Brian Sekete:  Talk to Zimbabwe Energy Regulatory Authority @zeraenergy. Be sure to contact  Eng. Sam Zaranyika on +263 716 800 250 and/or Eng. Tobias Mudzingwa on +263775482632,
Preparing for solar panel installation in Zimbabwe. Source: Satewave Technologies P/L
Preparing for solar panel installation in Zimbabwe. Source: Satewave Technologies P/L

Andy Kozlov: And so what are the most appealing segments of urban energy markets in your country in terms of foreign investment potential? Municipality tenders? Or rather household orders?

Brian Sekete: Municipal tenders come in the form of public-private partnerships (PPP), as the municipalities have no capacity to fund the projects , they tend to seek BOT arrangements.

The best is the domestic and commercial markets which do pay for the services, especially private schools, universities, colleges and private companies.

Andy Kozlov: I can see your company Satewave Technologies P/L recently set up a solar-powered robot in Ruwa, 22 km south-east of capital Harare. Was it easy to have it commissioned by the municipality?

Brian Sekete: It was a public tender and — fortunately for us — we had the traffic light technology they required and we agreed to the 30-day payment period , which turned out to be 60 days.

Andy Kozlov: Is this an established policy in Zimbabwe to transition traffic lights to solar throughout the country?

Brian Sekete:  With the critical grid shortage, solar-powered traffic lights are a very effective and efficient way of managing traffic and all municipalities are going this route. Harare CBD requires 198 traffic lights to be retrofitted  excl. current  and future requirements.

Solar-powered traffic lights in Ruwa, Zimbabwe. Source: Satewave Technologies P/L
Solar-powered traffic lights in Ruwa, Zimbabwe. Source: Satewave Technologies P/L

Andy Kozlov: What are the main challenges facing renewable energy (RE) companies catering to urban residents in Zimbabwe?

Brian Sekete: The Main challenge is coming from the fact that the government is still on the drawing board with a renewable energy policy that seeks to benefit all stakeholders in the use of RE ( feed-in tariffs into the grid, rebates on solar water heating, duty-free on all RE products etc).

The issue of sub-standard RE products flooding the market needs control, hence the formation of  ZERA, ZAS, BUREAU VISTAS  and REAZ to safeguard standards in product specs, product quality, quality of installed work.

Andy Kozlov: Is there any correlation between renewable energy deployment in Zimbabwe’s cities as opposed to rural areas?

Brian Sekete: A lot of activity has seen RE players concetrate in the rural areas as most programmes are being funded by NGOs: solar home light kits, solar kiosks, solar irrigation pumping systems, biogas  and biomass installations.

BUT a lot of growth  in terms of uptake and usage is in the cities, a lot of consumers have the basic appreciation of RE, especially off-grid systems, solar water heating , solar street lighting.

Andy Kozlov:  Given your vast experience in the establishment of successful joint ventures and start-ups in the Southern Africa region, where do SADC-based renewable energy entrepreneurs tend to congregate throughout the year to share ideas and strike deals? Which cities, which trade shows, forums?

Brian Sekete:  These mostly take place down south in the Republic of South Africa. But there are exceptions:

  1. Southern Africa Energy & Infrastructure Summit (this year in Maputo, Mozambique)
  2. African Energy Indaba in South Africa
  3. Utility Week & Clean Power Africa, Cape Town
  4. South African International Renewable Energy Conference
  5. Solar Show Africa, Johannesburg
  6. Zimbabwe International Trade Fair
  7. Zambia International Trade Fair
  8. Energex Africa in South Africa

Andy Kozlov:  By way of illustrating, your company took part in agricultural shows in the past.  Was it the one in Bulawayo?

Brian Sekete: There are two Zimbabwean trade shows  featured in our calendar. ZITF in April and  ZAS in August.

Satewave's exhibition area at a trade show. Source: Satewave Technologies P/L
Satewave’s exhibition area at a trade show. Source: Satewave Technologies P/L

Andy Kozlov: Why are such trade shows a good way to market solar energy tech?

Brian Sekete: Three days are reserved for B2B meetings and you interact with buyers from a whole spectrum of industries: mining, manufacturing , agriculture etc.

Andy Kozlov: Is solar the most popular renewable energy option among agri show attendants?

Brian Sekete: Solar is a popular RE option for both trade shows  in Zimbabwe as it caters for immediate lighting solutions and entertainment options.

Andy Kozlov: What about wind energy in Matabeleland?

Brian Sekete: Wind masts of 8m and above are suited for the region and the rest of Zimbabwe.

Global electricity market liberalization
Global electricity market liberalization

Andy Kozlov:  What are the next five years going to look like for Zimbabwe in terms of renewable energy PPPs?

Brian Sekete: The [national] RE policy is to be finalised by end of 2016, and this will trigger a lot of activity in the RE sector, including 99-year leases for solar farms.

Andy Kozlov: What are the main developments everyone is excited about in terms of PPPs?

Brian Sekete: There is a final document on the JOINT VENTURE ACT ready for public consumption and this will guide  PPP with proper legislation through the Zimbabwe Investment Authourity platform thats comes with sovereign guarantees.