Award local firms mega construction projects: Bitumen

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BERNARD MPOFU

Published on September 13, 2018

Bitumen World says government could contain the country’s ballooning external debt by awarding mega construction projects to competent local firms and this would save the country’s limited foreign currency.

Zimbabwe requires more $5 billion to upgrade its road network which has deteriorated over the years due to lack of investment. The country’s is also saddled with a huge external debt which accounts for 70 percent of gross domestic product.

Bitumen World is currently constructing a traffic circle along Harare Drive which is expected to ease congestion in the northern suburbs. The company was contracted by the City of Harare to undertake the project.

According to the company, the traffic circle central island, which sees almost 1800 vehicles pass by every hour during peak hours, will be well lit and covered in a Fever Tree forest under-planted with Mondo to be surrounded by majestic, 6m high wooden beams in the shape of elephant tusks creating an all-round grandiose feel to the intersection.

Company CEO Andre Zeitsmen told Business Times in an interview that only 30 percent of the project costs is in foreign currency, adding that awarding tenders to locals could also help grow the construction sector which is one of the biggest employers in the country.

“We are busy now and our capacity is around 95 percent but we are looking forward to more work and we believe that there is a lot more work coming up. What we do want to emphasize and plead to government is to give more to local contractors especially on big projects like the Beitbridge to Chirundu highway, he said

“Instead of going out to borrow hard currency to fund those projects which you and your grandchildren will be paying back for the next 30 years, locals can do the projects because only 30 percent of the cost is really imported material—meaning bitumen, spare parts and equipment. The rest are local costs and we want to bring up the local industry and keep that money flowing in the country.”

Zeitsman said the company has since doubled its labour force to 500 workers as the construction sector recovers.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa has committed to fixing the country’s rundown infrastructure after he was elected last month to succeed long-time leader Robert Mugabe.  Mnangagwa pledged to eradicate corruption, restore rule of law, promote infrastructure development and economic advancement among other key deliverables in the next five years following his inauguration.

In 2012, the World Bank estimated that $33 billion is required over two decades to fix the country’s core infrastructure.