Zimbabwe has an ambitious vision of becoming an upper-middle-income society by the year 2030. Contextually, this is a transformational national vision, which must be rooted in transformational sectoral visions, strategies, and implementation. In other words, transforming a nation is a challenge that requires all hands on the deck. Put simply, a dictionary definition by Cambridge would say a transformation is a complete change in the appearance or character of something or someone. How can we transform Zimbabwe’s property market to world-class standards as demanded by Vision 2030?
Thomas Fuller would say, “Charity begins at home”, and the Japanese would say “Kaizen”, which means change for the better, or continuous improvement. Learning from the above, for a nation in transformation, we must continue to challenge the status quo, starting with our regulatory framework, which is the definition of Zimbabwe’s operating environment to both local and international investors.
Investors are attracted to transparent and efficient regulations that the uphold property rights of people. The rise of Dubai’s real estate is largely attributed to the clarity of its property rights. For instance, it is known that foreign property ownership in Dubai is permitted in areas that are designated freehold.
Property investors are also attracted to simple processes of property development and transactions. This includes clear land-use policies, zoning regulations, building codes, permits and approvals. In Rwanda, the one-stop-shop concept and systems automation have positioned the country at the pinnacle of Africa on the ease of doing business index.
As a country, we must also make intentional efforts to invest in robust physical and social infrastructure to support a world-class property market. This includes transportation networks, utilities, healthcare facilities, educational institutions, recreational spaces, and cultural amenities. Accessible and well-maintained infrastructure enhances the desirability of a property market. As the capital markets continue to innovate, Zimbabwe has at its disposal various financial instruments to leverage for infrastructure development, including PPPs, REITs, and BOTs, to mention a few.
Every country wants to win investors. It therefore becomes paramount to ensure that as a country competing for investors we continuously interrogate and improve our investment climate for attractiveness by implementing policies that encourage both domestic and foreign investment in the property market. This may involve providing incentives, tax breaks, and/or streamlining processes for strategic infrastructure development initiatives. It is toothsome to say that we failed to attract foreign direct investment, but it becomes inedible to imagine that our local investors are choosing other global destinations for investment ahead of us. This is the very reason why Thomas Fuller earlier argued that charity must begin at home.
As urbanization takes its toll on existing infrastructure, Zimbabwe must prioritize urban planning and design by implementing effective urban planning strategies that prioritize sustainability, livability, and efficient land use. This includes mixed-use developments, well-designed public spaces, pedestrian-friendly streets, and green building practices
The government’s rural development agenda is a good thing, but without taking into consideration the future status of these rural dwellings now, we risk becoming victims of our vision. Rural development brings with it an ‘urban-rural’ convergence, which also requires reviews of our rural planning to incorporate modern infrastructure developments that can withstand increased traffic and growing populations. Authorities must incorporate smart rural concepts, also known as smart villages into their smart city designs to attract the right investments to the broader Zimbabwe property market.
The United Nations (UN) sustainable development goal number 11 speaks of ensuring access for all to adequate, safe, and affordable housing and basic services by 2030. Zimbabwe, which has a national housing backlog of circa 1.5 million units must decisively encourage affordable housing concepts by implementing policies that promote the availability of affordable homes for a diverse range of income levels. This can include incentives for developers to include affordable housing units in their projects, public-private partnerships, and innovative financing models. That way, vision 2030 becomes a reality, and sustainability is achieved.
In a 21st knowledge economy, data is currency and transparency is sacrosanct. Investors of today enjoy unlimited access to global market opportunities with a click of a button, thanks to the internet. To attract quality investors in the property market, Zimbabwe must enhance transparency and data availability. This can be achieved by establishing reliable and easily accessible property data and information systems. This way, buyers, sellers, and investors can make more informed decisions. Also, robust systems will protect buyers and investors from fraud risk, a development that will promote trust in the property market.
As sustainability takes centre stage at global investment gatherings, authorities must prioritize sustainability in property development by promoting energy-efficient buildings, green spaces, recycling programs, and renewable energy sources. Implementing environmentally friendly policies and standards to reduce the carbon footprint of the property market will go a long way in unlocking financial investment into our property market.
The first global industrial revolution gave birth to new infrastructure such as railways, seaports, and electrical networks. Today, the 4th industrial revolution is before us. Do we also wait for it to conquer the world? Surely not. As a country, we must embrace emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence, big data, and the Internet of Things (IoT) to enhance efficiency, transparency, and customer experience in the property market. This can include online platforms for property transactions, virtual reality tours, and smart home automation. Who knows, as was the case during the first industrial revolution, we may unlock 4th industrial revolution-linked infrastructure investment opportunities in Zimbabwe’s property market.
In the words of the basketball legend – Michael Jordan, Talent wins games but teamwork wins championships. In the same vein, the successful transformation of Zimbabwe’s property market to world-class standards requires the collaborative efforts of all stakeholders, including government agencies, developers, investors, community organizations, and residents, to gain insights, build consensus, and ensure inclusive and sustainable development toward Vision 2030.
This also includes the promotion of partnerships with international organizations, investors, and experts to learn from best practices and attract global investments to the property market. This can be achieved through partnering with global property investment conferences and participating in international knowledge exchange programs.
In conclusion, Zimbabwe’s vision of transforming the lifestyle of its people to an upper middle-income status by 2030 is a noble cause that must be supported by transformational strategies across all sectors of the economy. Considering the long-term gestation of infrastructure projects, attracting investment into the sector is a long-term endeavour that requires a clear and attractive regulatory framework, upholding property rights, strategic planning and innovation, national commitment, and continuous monitoring and adaptation. Together, we can develop a world-class property market for Zimbabwe.