China sets conditions to build convention centre
Bulawayo: China has pledged to fund the construction of a convention centre and other critical infrastructure worth US$300 million for the joint hosting of the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) General Assembly set for next year. Minister of Public Works, Gabuza Joel Gabbuza, said China was willing to fund the project but on condition that the tenders for construction were awarded to Chinese companies.
“We are negotiating with China for the loans. China has pledged to assist but on condition that tenders for construction go to their companies. We are negotiating that local companies are sub-contracted for upgrading projects or to supply the bulk of the building materials,” Gabbuza said on Thursday.
He said Zimbabwe, which is co-hosting general assembly with Zambia, had no money for the construction of the multi-million dollar project. The convention centre is designed to accommodate between 3 000 and 5 000 people, have a shopping mall and a three-star and five-star hotel.
“This is a big project and we do not have the funds to wholly fund construction projects on our own. For example, the conference centre would cost about US$120 million with the other money going to fund the construction of the hotel, to increase hotel rooms and other ancillary services,” said Gabbuza.
In the 2012 national budget, Finance minister Tendai Biti, only allocated US$1 million for the preparations towards the co-hosting of the assembly, which analysts said was a drop in the ocean in comparison to the actual amount needed.
Gabbuza said regional financial institutions such as the Development Bank of Southern Africa had come up with special loan facilities for the refurbishment and re-capitalisation of tourism facilities in and around Victoria Falls to improve services during and after the tourism event.
Most of the 186 members of the UNWTO are expected to descend on Victoria Falls and Livingstone next year for the event. Government has said the event presents Zimbabwe with a unique opportunity to rebrand its image in the eyes of the international community.