Victoria Falls, which was declared a city last week and is already a special economic zone, has started attracting foreign investors, with an Indian transnational firm with interests in the health sector announcing yesterday it will construct its southern African headquarters in the city.
Apart from being granted city status, the city hosts the Victoria Falls Stock Exchange, and is part of a development corridor authorities envisage will attract investors in various sectors, especially in tourism.
Cabinet recently considered and approved the Conceptual Development Framework for the Victoria Falls-Binga Special Economic Zone and the related nodes following a presentation by the Minister of Local Government and Public Works.
The 10 nodes, most of them being tourist resorts, were identified within the Special Economic Zone as Victoria Falls Municipality Area; Jafuta (Masuwe) Stateland; Batoka Town; Mlibizi Resort; Binga Centre; Sijarira Resort; Binga hinterland; Gwayi-Shangani Dam Resort; Hwange Town; and the Hwange Aerodrome Centre.
Overall, the agreed approach includes the integration of the natural environment, current eco-tourism activities and requirements relating to the World Heritage status while enhancing and diversifying tourism products on offer and integrating tourism with other hinterland economies like mining and irrigation, for example, Binga and Hwange.
The development is expected to attract investors from various sectors and make Victoria Falls an international financial hub.
The developments in Victoria Falls are complemented by a refurbished state-of-the-art Victoria Falls International Airport, the foreign currency stock exchange and the magnetic lure that the falls offer to tourists.
Officials from the Indian conglomerate, IHD Marketplace Inc, which is eyeing massive investment in the health sector, led by chief executive officer Dr Parveen Singh, met President Mnangagwa at State House in Harare yesterday where they announced their intended investment in Victoria Falls.
Apart from setting its headquarters in the youngest city in Zimbabwe, the firm will establish other centres in Harare, Bulawayo, Gweru and Mutare.
With operations in 19 countries worldwide, IHD Marketplace Inc officials said they will open five pharmaceutical and diagnostic centres by March 8 next year under a programme aimed at promoting health tourism in Zimbabwe.
Zimbabwe will be the fourth African country where the company has presence after Guinea, Botswana and Ghana.
Speaking after the meeting with President Mnangagwa, Dr Singh said his arrival was a follow-up meeting after he first met the President in New York.
“This was a follow-up meeting with his Excellency, the President,” he said. “We are here to develop the medical tourism business and we are here for affordable quality healthcare services in the area of diagnostic and pharmaceuticals.
“Our main goal is to push for the reduction in cost of medical tests, thereby improving accessibility to healthcare by the majority of the Zimbabwean population. We are targeting the establishment of 10 retail pharmacies across the country.”
According to India Brand Equity Foundation, healthcare has become one of India’s largest sectors, both in terms of revenue and employment, with an estimated market increase three-fold to US$133.44 billion by 2022.
The country’s medical tourism market is growing at 18 percent year on year and is expected to reach US$9 billion by 2020.
The arrival of the Indians to invest in the healthcare dovetails with the country’s vision of improving the sector.
Meanwhile, Kenya has invited the world to visit Zimbabwe and experience its friendly generous reception and entertainment of guests
in the country’s tourism sector.
Speaking after paying a courtesy call on President Mnangagwa at State House yesterday, outgoing Kenyan Ambassador to Zimbabwe – Lucy Chelimo – showered praise on the country’s hospitality.
Ambassador Chelimo said she had been in the country for five years, and during her stay she travelled a lot and was exposed to the hospitality of the country.
“I invite the world to come and sample the tourism product here, especially the hospitality of Zimbabweans,” she said. “Very friendly people. I have had the chance to travel the country and it is very beautiful.”
In terms of trade between the two countries, Ambassador Chelimo said firm ground had already been cultivated for businesspeople to exploit opportunities in either republic.
She cited the presence of Kenyan Airways which is already flying the Nairobi-Harare route 21 times a week.
“Businesspeople should find it easy to connect business between the two countries,” said Ambassador Chelimo.
Itself a giant in tourism sector, the World Bank estimates that tourism contributes between 8-14 percent to Kenya’s Gross Domestic Product.
Zimbabwe’s tourism sector has been identified as one of the critical sectors in the country’s quest to attain an upper middle income economy by 2030.
Tourism is an industry that largely relies on travel – both international and domestic, but has been hard hit by Covid-19 mitigatory measures.