Byo recovery possible: Bloch

HARARE - Economist Erich Bloch says Bulawayo has potential to regain its industrial hub status, owing to existence of vast mineral resources and the city’s strategic positioning for trade.

“Currently, there is a tendency among people to despair and say that Bulawayo is dying because a larger percentage of companies are closing down.

“Though we cannot deny that we have experienced economic decline for the past 10 years, there is still hope for Bulawayo as it has great potential for recovery,” Bloch said during the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between the City of Bulawayo and Polokwane.

Bloch said in the midst of industrial closure, opportunities were present in mining with reported methane gas fields in Lupane, discovered more than 60 years ago, yet untapped.

“The region has immense potential in mining with minerals like methane gas which was last explored in 1993.

According to research carried out, it has the potential to meet energy needs of the Sadc region for the next 150 years, though we haven’t extracted a litre from these fields,” he said.

“Like in Marange, areas near Bulawayo have diamond reserves which when extracted, the region could benefit immensely.

“With our engineering experts, our mining endeavours will certainly prosper,” Bloch added.

“We are a major gateway to trade and tourism due to our proximity to the two borders of Botswana and South Africa.

“The proximity presents great opportunities for us to trade and create this region as an export processing zone.”

Bloch who is also chairperson of the city’s development initiatives said Bulawayo also had opportunities in textile, clothing and food processing, a position that could help revive the once vibrant industry.

Turning to the issue of the Distressed Industries and Marginalised Areas Fund (Dimaf), Bloch said the fund has not managed to help the intended beneficiaries.

“The disbursement of the fund has been selective and short-term, hence the fund has not played a meaningful role towards recovery,” he said.

So far 17 companies from Matabeleland region have benefited to the tune of $411,4 million according to CABS, which has been tasked to disburse the $40 million under Dimaf.

Bulawayo has witnessed de-industrialisation over the year that was worsened by the economic meltdown Zimbabwe suffered over the last decade.

More than 200 companies have either closed or relocated elsewhere namely Archer Clothing Company which left about 600 workers jobless, The Ready Wholesalers trading as Belmor Clothing Manufacturers which left about 300 workers jobless, National Blankets, Cotton Printers, Security Mills, the country’s sole manufacturer of knitting yarn, Karina, David Whitehead as well as Continental Fashions, a textile giant that had been operating in Zimbabwe for more than 48 years. - Nyasha Chingono

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