BY FIDELITY MHLANGA
FINANCE minister Mthuli Ncube has said setting up dry ports in Zimbabwe would spur economic activity through connecting the landlocked southern African country with the rest of the world.
Ncube was officiating at the post-mid-term budget review hosted by Alpha Media Holdings in conjunction with the Zimbabwe Economics Society on Monday, highlighting that his recent visit to Kazakhstan was an eye opener on how landlocked countries could leverage on dry ports to stimulate economic activity.
“We also want to create a few domestic dry ports. Currently, we are investigating a dry port in Masvingo, Bulawayo and Makuti. The reason being that we want to make sure that our brothers and sisters in the DRC [Democratic Republic of Congo] and Katanga province don’t go all the way to Johannesburg to import their goods. They must come to Makuti,” he said.
“This became very clear to me when I visited Kazakhstan with the President (Emmerson Mnangagwa) early this year. They really understand how you can maximise on your position as a land locked country.”
A dry port is an inland intermodal terminal directly connected by road or rail to a seaport and operates as a centre for the transhipment of sea-cargo to inland destinations.
Kazakhstan city of Khorgos’ dry port has processed about 110 000 twenty-foot equivalent units of containers since its launch in 2015.
During its first year of operation, the port handled over 70 000 containers, and that number is expected to increase to 500 000 by 2020.
“Transporting wholesale goods (clothing, machinery, household goods) from Yiwu in Zhejiang province (China) to London by sea takes 40 days,” Ncube said.
“But since the Khorgos dry port became operational, the same journey by rail takes anywhere from 18 to 20 days. This is a huge increase in efficiency.”
Ncube also moots the establishment of an offshore financial centre (OFC) — a low-tax jurisdiction that provides corporate and commercial services to non-residents in the form of offshore companies and the investment of an offshore fund.
“Those of you in the financial services sector, even those of you who are not, we are very serious about establishing offshore financial services sectors in Zimbabwe to compete with (countries such as) Mauritius and Botswana because we are going to target companies that are trying to invest in Africa. We want them to come through Zimbabwe so that we create a name-play for them to come and invest in the rest of Africa through Zimbabwe as an offshore financial services,” the Treasury boss said.
“Why am I optimistic about this? Why? It’s because of the quality of people in Zimbabwe; the quality of personnel. Our financial sector, whatever you think, is well regulated in line with the financial standards. We have got the right institutional infrastructure to support a successful offshore financial services sector.”