The next new town in Zimbabwe is likely to be Makuti, now just a small “service station” stopover where the roads to Kariba and Chirundu split, but now gearing up to become the entrepôt on the northern border and the urban centre that will support the new Chirundu One-Stop Border Post and host the Makuti Dry Port.
With 50 hectares of land for the Dry Port and ancillary developments, such as commercial and residential facilities, already secured and Zimra recently invited interested companies to submit architectural designs for one of the country’s major projects, this little village in Hurungwe district will never be the same again.
Further down the Harare-Chirundu Highway, heavy equipment is carving a new and improved route down the Zambezi Escarpment under the first phase of the Japanese-financed US$21 million Makuti-Chirundu Road upgrade.
The headquarters for the contractors, Dai Nippon Construction (DNC) is at Makuti, breathing life into Makuti Hotel, service station and kiosk that were almost folding owing to lack of business. People travelling to Kariba, Chirundu and Mana Pools preferred to do their shopping in Karoi, about 90km away.
The new developments of the dry port and the upgraded highway are expected to change the face of the small community of Makuti, hitherto characterised by crumbling infrastructure owing to lack of pull factors to attract investment.
These and many other ongoing projects are a bold statement of intent by the Government, Zimra and Hurungwe Rural District Council for seamless facilitation of inter-regional trade.
The projects will remove bottlenecks for easy movement of traffic including taming of the treacherous Zambezi Escarpment which led to congestion as trucks tried to navigate the sharp curves and steep gradient.
It will also decongest Chirundu Border Post as trucks will be cleared at Makuti before proceeding to the border post, creating a financial ecosystem that will spur the development in the area.
At the commissioning of the first phase of the Makuti-Chirundu road upgrade, President Mnangagwa said there was need to put measures to manage increased traffic caused by improved efficiency along the road.
Zimra has already started engaging their Zambian counterparts to have Chirundu Border Post operate 24 hours a day permanently.
The composite project has designated shopping mall areas, commercial and residential space and social amenities including schools.
The Government has commended Hurungwe RDC for improved ease of doing business which has helped to attract investment in the district.
Mashonaland West Provincial Affairs Minister Mary Mliswa-Chikoka last week said the local council had responded positively to te Government’s drive.
“Let me at this juncture acknowledge the swiftness shown by Hurungwe Rural District Council in provision of land for this dry port. Talk about the ease of doing business: we do not only talk it, we practice it here in Mashonaland West. Well done,” she said.
Zimra Commissioner-General Faith Mazanhi said out of the four areas designated by Government to house dry ports, Hurungwe was first to provide land for purchase by Zimra.
“Makuti is one of four sites designated as the National Dry Port project by the Minister of Finance and Economic Development Professor Mthuli Ncube in his 2020 Budget speech for the development of dry ports together with Bulawayo, Masvingo and Mutare.
“Because of the quick response of Hurungwe Rural District Council to our request for land, Makuti was the first site to be secured and the Zimra Board has directed that it be developed as a pilot of the National Dry Port project,” she said.
Agriculture, mining, power generation in Kariba, tourism and trade facilitation are the key pillars in Mashonaland West province’s development matrix.
Hurungwe Rural District Council chief executive Mr Luke Kalavino said the council was focused on attracting investment and the Makuti Dry Port project would help bring efficiency in service delivery in the district.
A constant flow of capital projects, Mr Kalavino said, would help close the infrastructure gap in the district.
“This development will obviously trigger exponential growth and thus providing the impetus for high potential for strong pick up market in the transport network and communications, energy, water, sanitation and healthcare,” he said.
Mr Kalavino said institutions such as Zimra were key in reassuring international investors on the security of their investment and their effectiveness was related to accelerated economic and social development.
Government is putting in pillars to support its factor driven economy whose competitive advantage lies in its natural resources and labour among others.