BY REX MPHISA/FIDELITY MHLANGA
THE Zimbabwean and South African governments have agreed to speed up the development of Beitbridge and Musina towns to enhance trade links with work expected to commence soon, President Emmerson Mnangagwa said yesterday.
Speaking at the official launch of the $23,6 million Beitbridge-Masvingo-Harare TelOne national backbone fibre optic link project at the border post, Mnangagwa said this was part of the agreements signed in Harare in the Tuesday Bi-National Commission summit where both governments committed to assist in the development of the two towns.
“You must count yourselves very lucky. The development of the two towns will be supported by both governments and we agreed to promote and improve Beitbridge on both sides,” Mnangagwa said.
The optic fibre link was built at a cost of $98 million borrowed from China Eximbank, including local efforts by TelOne, Zimbabwe’s fixed telecommunications network which also links Mozambique, Botswana and Zambia to international seabed cables in the Indian Ocean.
The fibre optic is expected to provide seamless networks with the world and cut internet bandwidth landing costs by 40%.
“My government, under the Second Republic, is determined to connect our nation speedily and equitably. We have presently prioritised the building and rehabilitation of roads throughout the country, however, we are equally cognisant of the need to build the infrastructure of tomorrow,” Mnangagwa said.
He said the new development would complement efforts to speed up economic reforms through modernisation and industrialisation.
The optic fibre link was built by local engineers using technology from a Chinese company, Huawei.
“It will efficiently connect us to the rest of the world. It will further ensure an inclusive society, where all people can benefit from immense growth opportunities that are abound in all sectors,” Mnangagwa said.
“Our infrastructure has for too long lagged behind, but we are determined to catch up with those who progressed ahead of us.”
”In addition, the middle-income economy status we envision will be accelerated as a result of the digital socio-economic impact that cuts across financial services, health, retail, agriculture, mining, tourism and government.”
He challenged Zimbabweans to move out of comfort zones, exit archaic ways of doing business and embrace the future by using technology.
He commended TelOne for its achievement and said it should link with progressive partners, being one of the parastatals government had demerged in order to privatise it.
Mnangagwa hailed China for availing loans for the country’s infrastructure projects, saying the loan facility would enable the timely completion of the TelOne project.
China Eximbank has, over the past years, been extending loans to Zimbabwe, including the $150 million for the Victoria Falls Airport and $533 million for the Kariba South Power project.
The Asian bank is also extending loans for the construction of the $150 million Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport and $1 billion for the Hwange Power project.
Chinese acting ambassador to Zimbabwe Zhao Baogang said his country had a $60 billion development budget for African countries, including Zimbabwe.
He said his country’s partnership with Zimbabwe would ensure that the country became the regional electricity, communications and transport hub.
“Already, we have spent $563 million for the Kariba expansion, increasing electricity output with 300 megawatts. We are involved in a $1 billion Hwange Thermal Power project to be complete in 42 months, which will increase Zimbabwe’s power generation by not less than 600 megawatts to cover domestic and external demands. We will be helping Zimbabwe with the Batoka Gorge project to generate 1 200 megawatts, which will make Zimbabwe a regional hub for electricity,” Zhao said
He encouraged Zimbabweans to be patient and support their government, saying the road to development was not easy and required unity and integrity.
TelOne managing director Chipo Mtasa said the other part of the Chinese loan was used for modernisation of data centres, among other ICT projects.
In another matter, Mnangagwa said he noted with concern that most schools in Beitbridge did not have science subjects and immediately instructed Higher and Tertiary Education minister Amon Murwira to address the issue.
“I am not appealing to you, I am instructing you [Murwira] with your colleagues [Primary and Secondary Education minister Paul] Mavima to look into that issue now.”