CEO of Zimborders, Francois Diedrechsen said: “We have already “received the support of a range of financial institutions on this critical infrastructure project”
By Dr Eddie Mahembe
Last week I wr0te to the Sunday Express and spoke about the importance of the Beitbridge border post to the economy of Zimbabwe in general and the Zimbabwean travelling public in particular, and whether it would be ideal to involve them in the modernisation of this critical infrastructure? The link to that introduction is provided on this article.
What are the advantages of involving citizens not only at participation level, but at funding that massive infrastructure project?
In Part I of this series, published on the 13th of March 2021, we are argued that the most urgent generational call for this generation of Africans is to come up with solutions to the socio-economic challenges of our time.
The previous generation delivered political freedom and this generation must deliver socio-economic development.
One of the solutions proposed in this two-part series is to involve citizens in the development of their nations, especially the construction of key infrastructure.
Citizens cannot just be spectators, watching foreigners building dams, bridges, border posts, etc. Real empowerment happens when citizens get involved, not only at participation level, but funding of strategic infrastructure projects.
We advocate for the setting up of the Public-Private-Community Partnership (PPCP) framework, starting with the Beitbridge border post modernisation project.
Public-private-community partnership: Model for socio-economic development
Several research studies have proven that provision of quality infrastructure facilitates trade, migration and overall economic growth.
It has also been shown that the development of infrastructure (transport, power, water, ICT, etc) through public–private partnership (PPP) not only boost economic growth, but improves access to quality infrastructure; makes technical and institutional capacity, especially from the private sector, available thereby improving transparency and good governance.
There is need to facilitate better allocation of public resources, as the government can now refocus its resources towards critical sectors such as education, health and social security; and attracts private investments into long-term projects.
Though these advantages are noble, one missing link from this equation is the Community (Citizen) Sector.
The participation and involvement of the community, in a Public-Private-Community Partnership (PPCP) model will ensure that the potential economic benefits are inclusive and sustainable.
Other advantages of involving the community in choosing and funding the infrastructure projects include: better selection of relevant projects with potential to benefit many stakeholders; community ownership of infrastructure which minimises vandalism and ensure patronage.
This calls for building unity of purpose among communities; unlocking of long-term capital from individual savings; and poverty and inequality reduction as communities directly benefit from the infrastructure they would have helped to build.
Let me briefly expand on the issue of involving the communities, especially in terms of participation and funding of infrastructure projects.
Most of the current PPPs involve the community mainly at participation level; where community leaders are informed, and their comments sometimes taken into consideration.
However, if leaders really want to empower their citizens and reduce inequality and poverty in a sustainable way, communities should be allowed to invest in infrastructure projects.
Beit Bridge Modernisation Project: Is there a scope to build up a simple public-private-community partnership
The Government of Zimbabwe (GoZ) recently announced the US$300 million Beitbridge border post modernisation project deal, which involves the upgrade and rehabilitation of the Zimbabwean side of the Beitbridge border post. The deal was granted by the GoZ to Zimborders Consortium which is led by La Frontiere.
According to the Zimbabwean Herald and the Zimbabwe Digital News, the project will be implemented under a PPP with the GoZ, funded privately and has a 17 and half years’ operating concession period following the completion of the two-year construction period.
The project sponsor, La Frontiere, will be responsible for the long-term operation of the border post once upgraded, alongside the Zimbabwean authorities.
The CEO of Zimborders, Francois Diedrechsen, is quoted as saying that they have already “received the support of a range of financial institutions on this critical infrastructure project”.
Some of the financial institutions behind this deal include the South African big-four banks, namely RMB, Absa, Nedbank and Standard Bank acted as joint mandated lead arrangers for the commercial debt tranche.
Given the importance of the Beitbridge border post to the economy of Zimbabwe in general and the Zimbabwean travelling public in particular, would it not be ideal to involve them in the modernisation of this critical infrastructure?
It is estimated that there are around 3-4 million Zimbabweans in South Africa.
The majority use the Beitbridge border post and are always frustrated with dilapidated infrastructure on the Zimbabwean side.
Now, imagine if one million Zimbabweans unite and contribute their savings towards the Beitbridge border post in a PPCP arrangement with the current players.
Let us assume that one million Zimbabweans in Diaspora each contribute R2 000 during the two years of construction, this will translate to R 2 billion (around US$100 million).
Many Zimbabweans will be proud to be part of building an efficient, and beautiful strategic infrastructure!
And within the next 17 and half years, part of the proceeds from this key infrastructure will go directly into the pockets of citizens.
That is real empowerment.
One such vehicle to champion this cause and mobilise Zimbabwean diaspora community is Zimbabweans United for Progress (ZUFP), a non-profit organisation established in April 2020 and registered in South Africa.
It is a collective effort of individuals from diverse backgrounds committed to improving the socio-economic conditions of Zimbabweans.
The organisation has representation from political parties (especially the South African chapters of Zanu PF, MDC Alliance, ZAPU, Free Zimbabwe Congress, etc); NGOs such as African Diaspora Forum, Zim Exiles Forum, Zim Dot Com; Churches (AFM, ZCC, Zaoga, etc); business community; and other organised groups.
Dr Eddie Mahembe is an Interim Chairperson: Zimbabweans United for Progress (ZUFP). He holds a Doctorate Degree (PhD) in (Development) Economics and Master of Commerce (MCom) in Economics both from the University of South Africa (Unisa), a Bachelor of Commerce (BCom) Honours in Econometrics from the University of Pretoria (UP), Bachelor of Science (BSc) Honours Degree in Economics from the University of Zimbabwe (UZ). He can be reached on: firstname.lastname@example.org
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