Michael Tome Business Reporter
Government through the Ministry of Local Government and Public Works and National Housing, on Friday availed land for the construction of a US$100 million Afreximbank Africa Trade Centre (AATC) and regional office.
AATC, which will be built adjacent to Greenwood Park in Harare, is one of the several flagship initiatives being promoted by the bank to facilitate the implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).
The facility, which is earmarked to become a one-stop-shop centre for the conduct of trade especially Intra-African, will be a platform to promote and relay trade information and critical services necessary to the realisation of the goals of the AfCFTA.
AATC will house the bank’s regional office, a world-class hotel facility, a major conference and trade exhibition centre, a trade information facility as well as a technology incubation lab.
Zimbabwe donated land for the construction of the structure back in 2017, and the centre is anticipated to make Harare an Intra-African trade hub for the Southern African region, which helps to restore Harare as an important financial services centre.
The bank is owned by over 146 institutions among them African Governments including Zimbabwe.
While addressing delegates at the event, Local Government, Public Works and National Housing Minister July Moyo, expressed regret over the delay in the handover of the land to Afreximbank, indicating that many sites had been deemed unfit for the intended purpose, hence the recent acquisition of the land from a private owner.
“I would like to apologise on behalf of the Government that it is us who have taken so long to give this land to Afreximbank. It comes after looking at two other sites, the other site was not appropriate, the second site we thought was very appropriate was condemned by our environmentalists since it was a wetland.
“We had to go and buy this land from a private sector institution and today we are happy as Government to hand it over,” said Minister Moyo.
Minister Moyo highlighted that he was appreciative of the Afreximbank initiative as it complemented his ministry’s efforts to upgrade and renovate structures around the city.
He said the intended project would significantly contribute to the facelift of the vicinity.
“On behalf of Government, I’m very happy to hand over this piece of land, which has been earmarked for the development, as we move forward to build our smart cities including regeneration of old dilapidated centres in our cities.
“We look forward that Afreximbank through working here will change the skyline and modernise to smart cities,” said Minister Moyo.
In his acceptance remarks, Afreximbank president and chairman Professor Benedict Oramah, indicated that Afreximbank would begin the construction of this state-of-the-art centre before the year-end in 2022.
“We would like to thank the Government of Zimbabwe for the support rendered to Afreximbank over the years and indeed for this land donation. We would like to assure you that it will be put to good use that will benefit the trade ecosystem in Zimbabwe and beyond.
“I am pleased to inform you that detailed design has commenced and is progressing in earnest with construction commencement scheduled for the third quarter of 2022, we expect that the construction of the AATC will immediately impact the local economy in terms of job creation,” said Prof Oramah.
Speaking at the event Secretary for Finance and Economic Development, George Guvamatanga, acknowledged the Afreximbank assistance over the years, which he said had been a lifeline to the country especially in times when it was deserted by other multilateral banking institutions.
“Our greatest appreciation goes to Professor Oramah for the valuable support we continue to receive from Afreximbank for the development of our country along with goals enunciated in the National Development Strategy 1.
“We cannot speak about the development of this economy without our appreciation to Afreximbank because, for the longest period of time, they were the only ones willing and able to finance our development,” said Mr Guvamatanga.
The event was graced by Finance and Economic Development Minister, Professor Mthuli Ncube, Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe Governor, John Mangudya, Zimbabwe Investment Development Agency chief executive, Mr Doug Munatsi, officials from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, and many other heads of local financial institutions.
A total of US$9 billion has been extended to the Government of Zimbabwe by Afreximbank hitherto.