- Build ICT Infrastructure first
- Solve the Title Deeds Problem
- Leverage on the new 3D printing tech for a massive infrastructure program
- Centralize, condense, and concentrate populations into big connected cities.
Is it even worth it to talk about infrastructure at the point of dysfunction that the country is in? Any infrastructural talk sounds like a pipe dream. This is why several people criticized Nelson Chamisa for mentioning bullet trains. There is no hope. No hope, no dreams.
Nonetheless, infrastructure is a key determinant of development. Even though the plans are long-term in nature, they have to be mentioned. The nation is lagging behind by a century. Some of the infrastructure that the country is relying on was built in the in 1920s by the colonial government. A mass infrastructure program is needed.
The limiting factor, as always, is financial resources. The country is knee-deep in debt. The fiscus is strained. the government is living hand-to-mouth. 70% of the revenue collected goes towards the payroll. Capital mobilization in both the private and public sectors is low. Its not easy to raise funds for infrastructure projects, home and abroad, given the country’s risk profile.
Faced with this reality, meaningful infrastructure programs can only be implemented after 3–5 years of turbo-charged growth, with growth rates above 15% p.a. Such growth rates are not even remarkable given the low base we will be emerging from. Hypergrowth will capacitate the government as ZIMRA collects more revenue.
The private sector will start to accumulate savings as well. Foreign direct investments will start to trickle-in, in pursuit of the high growth rate. Thus, the point of departure for the Infrastructure Policy that you deserve is the ICT Policy that you deserve. The ICT policy that you deserve carved out an outline of how such turbo-charged growth can be achieved.
Build ICT Infrastructure first.
ICT infrastructure is a low hanging fruit. It “turbo-charges” growth without driving the country deeper into debt. It allows the country to hack growth for a while and enjoy the benefits whilst playing catch-up in other areas that demand huge investments.
Building a modern road between Hurugwe and Harare is great. It enables trade, with faster movement of goods and people. However, the reward is not as remarkable and immediate as ensuring that all the villagers between Hurugwe and Harare have access to high-speed internet and ICT training resources.
ICT infrastructure is the backbone for the digital era economy, yet it so cheap compared to other types of infrastructure. It allows the country to throw citizens into the global workforce whilst restructuring the local economy.
Solve the Title Deeds Problem
The huge infrastructure backlog is also a direct result of a dysfunctional land ownership system. The land reform was chaotic and did not produce the desired result set. It totally teared down the sacredness of private property. Ironically, the connected beneficiaries of the land reform do not own the land, they lease it from the government.
The rural people who dwell in reserves (ruzevha) do not own the pieces of land they occupy as well. Most of the urbanites who are building their houses in residential areas mushrooming around Harare, Chitungwiza and Bulawayo do not have irrevocable proof of ownership. In short, way too many people who dwell on the land in Zimbabwe do not have title deeds.
How is that so many Zimbabweans don’t have title deeds? How come? What kind of a nation is that? It is totally dysfunctional and unacceptable. Rule of law has to reinstalled, not rule of the words of politicians. Land audits have to be carried out. Title Deeds have to be conferred to those who occupy the land.
This is a requirement in solving the infrastructure problem. The security of title problem has to be solved. There is no other way. The private sector (home and abroad) cannot commit significant amounts to infrastructure before the security of title issues are resolved.
3D printing buildings
The good thing about catching up is that you can make use of more advanced technologies which allow you to develop faster. With 3D printing en masse, we can build entire city districts faster than ever before. This is the best way to go.
The advantages of using 3D printing technologies are simple:
- 30–40% cheaper cost of construction
- 80–90% faster construction timelines
We could literally build an entire city for 1 million people at the cheapest cost within two years. The Chinese took 4 years to build a dormitory city (Kilamba) that houses 500,000 people in Angola. We could build twice as big in half the time, due to 3D printing.
The cost of Kilamba was said to be at $3.5 billion, which is obviously overstated because of price hedging and other things since it was an infrastructure-for-oil deal. It if was overstated by 30%, for example, the true cost (inclusive of developer margins) would be around $2.5 billion. Using the old tech, $5 billion would build us a city that houses a million people. Using 3D printing that could be $3 billion.
Thus, we could build a city twice bigger than Kilamba at a lower cost and in half the time. This is the infrastructure plans and policies that you deserve. Plans that can take a million Zimbabweans from poor accommodation and rural areas into modern city apartments with running water, heating systems, cooling systems, electricity, and a clean environment.
It doesn't cost much. $3 billion is not a lot of money for a country blessed with so many human resources and other natural resources. It doesn't cost much, but the politicians stealing from the fiscus would have you think otherwise. ZIMRA collections are not high because the government created an economy where people refuse to pay tax because they operate informally. There is enough human resources, natural resources, and money to get big life-changing projects like these done.
A capacitated state would be able work with private partners in funding a project like that one every two years. Within a decade, we would have migrated 5 million people from rural and agrarian lives to city lives, living in modern houses. China has been doing this for 3 decades. They have migrated more than 700 million people. If we get it right on this track, we will execute it faster than China, at a lower cost. Within 15 years, infrastructure and lives would have been transformed, powered by some serious 3D printing.
Centralize, condense, and concentrate populations into big connected cities.
The entire population of Zimbabwe can be condensed into one mega-city. Of course, we have already developed other smaller cities so they can continue to grow naturally.
The scattered approach to development is a constraint on resource for a small country like ours. There is no point in building nice roads across the entire country when some of those roads will be used by less than 100 cars a day. It’s a waste of resources.
The prevailing idea with most bureaucrats is that of bringing development every area in Zimbabwe. Whilst that has to be done eventually, the optimal use of resources, for now, would be to built new cities from scratch, very close to already existing cities of Harare and Bulawayo. We build going upwards and accommodate hundreds of thousands in a small geographical area. The resources needed to deliver service in these areas will be lower than resources needed to deliver services to the entire country.
The Mt Hampden area can accommodate a million-strong city. The Domboshava area can accommodate another million persons. The Goromonzi area can accommodate another million. The Zvimba area, and the Mahusekwa area (Manyame RDC) can accommodate two more million-strong cities.
We can build, from scratch, entirely new cities in these areas. That’s a population of 5 million smaller cities circled around Harare. Heavy interconnection between the satellite cities and Harare creates a hub-satellite thriving ecosystem. One mega metropolitan area can accommodate 10 million people. One mega market. A city state. Easier to spurn trade, develop, maintain infrastructure, deliver service, and govern.
The smaller towns and “growth points” can remain in use for those who prefer quiet and serene lifestyles far from the noise of the big city. However, the infrastructure development initiative should focus on the creation of a mega metropolitan area to accommodate nearly all. The “growth points” developmental plan from the 50s and 60s is too slow, too costly, and has failed. It was ideal and visionary in the 60s but has been made irrelevant by time.
Funding? A capable state will have enough funds
Our leaders, because they are rogue politicians (predominantly thieves and liars) will tell you that there is not enough money for infrastructure development, and we believe them.
They take $3 billion and dedicate it to command agriculture and have no results to show for it. We still end-up importing grains. But verily, verily, I say unto you, $3 billion is enough to build an entire city to house a million people from scratch. An entire city, with roads, streetlights, traffic lights, water connections, sewer systems, houses and apartments, sports facilities, and schools.
ZIMRA is collecting only half of what it could have been collecting if the economy was largely formal instead of being largely informal. One large veggies and greens chain could contribute to the fiscus as opposed to 100 vendors.
The same vendors could earn more, have leave days, pension, and medical aid as employees of large chain instead of being standalone vendors with self-determination. The vendors are economically better-off when they jointly operate a formalized and official veggies chain. The consumers are better off because the veggies chain can adhere to standards and can afford to lower prices. ZIMRA can collect taxes from the veggies chain and the government is better off. The outcomes are good for everyone.
This example, aggregated across sectors of the economy, leads a society that is better organized and a state that is made capable due to higher revenue collection from ZIMRA. Currently, tax collections are under $5 billion. A capable state could generate $10 billion, of which 30% can be dedicated towards infrastructure development. There you have it, $3 billion every year. enough to build a million-strong city every year.
It is possible. It can be done. It’s only a matter of restructuring our economy to make it more formal. We need to capacitate the state. This cannot be done by force and commandeering everything. It can be done by creating an enabling environment for formal businesses to thrive.
A capable state cannot be built in a day. Incentive structures take time to filter through the economy and its protocols. This is why the Infrastructure Policy Framework that you deserve can only be implemented after 3–5 years of turbo-charged growth whilst the “formal/informal” orientation of the economy undergoes a tectonic shift.
Recap: the infrastructure policy that you deserve should emphasize on building ICT infrastructure first, followed by solving the title deeds problems. The policy should be centered around 3D printing of buildings and development of a mega metropolitan area.