TRANSPORT Infrastructure is one of the pivotal vehicles to economic growth and plays a key role in socio-economic development through the movement of goods and passengers.
The transport sector facilitates economic activities and access to local, regional and international markets. But despite all this, the local transport sector is facing numerous challenges, chief among them lack of maintenance for trunk roads, skills flight, inadequate funding for projects and lack of an integrated approach in transport policy formulation.
NewsDay (ND) business reporter, Mthandazo Nyoni, interviewed Makomwe Transport and Hardware managing director, Ozias Marange (OM), who is also the Zimbabwe National Chamber of Commerce (ZNCC) Matabeleland chapter deputy president, about the state of the industry. Below are excerpts:
ND: What is the current state of the transport sector in Zimbabwe?
OM: There is improvement in the air transport segment with a number of new entries into the market; the road transport segment has been considerably stable despite a number of challenges. We also hope the rail segment resuscitation programme will come to fruition soon.
ND: What are those challenges?
OM: An underdeveloped infrastructure and an erratic increase in fuel prices, spare parts prices, and their availability.
ND: How do you think those challenges could be addressed?
OM: These challenges are not unique to the general challenges the economy is facing. For example, once the foreign currency shortages are resolved, spare parts prices should self-correct and availability impro
ND: What opportunities are there in the sector?
OM: A number, an interesting one is using information and communications technology to create synergies and improve efficiencies.
ND: How important is the sector in the growth of our economy?
OM: Very important, nothing is at its place without the involvement of the transport sector.
ND: What are you doing as private sector to develop the industry?
OM: When the railway and air transport sectors faced their worst challenges, the road transport sector sustained the economy. We understand our role, commerce is moved by transport, hence, we work to build sustainable capacity, improve safety, and to have good efficiencies and synergies that keep commodity prices low.
ND: What are your expectations from the new government?
OM: It is encouraging to note that the tone and vision of the government is to recover and grow the economy. We are already working with the new government. In fact, we are excited, as this fulfills the first steps of having a consistent, demand on transport, once demand in the sector is consistent infrastructure development financing streamlines itself.
ND: As ZNCC Matabeleland chapter deputy president based in Victoria Falls, what major challenges are affecting businesses in the resort town?
OM: Our municipality has been doing considerably well in service delivery, the market is also resilient and the community is united. We have had our fair share of problems in crime, and business competitiveness compared to our neighbours, but I believe we emerged victorious in 2017.
It will also be interesting to look at year-on-year statistics, as there was a vigorous fight against crime in 2017 in partnership with the Business Against Crime Forum of Zimbabwe amongst other groups.
ND: How did industry in Victoria Falls perform in 2017?
OM: Statistics will soon be out, but I am almost certain that it performed well, especially in the last quarter.
ND: Lastly, what plans do you have as a company in 2018?
OM: To grow sustainably.