Nqobile Tshili, columnist
THE transformation of Figtree Settlement into a smart city has started to take shape with technical teams working with the Bulilima Rural District Council as the government prepares to fully implement the concept of smart cities in line with policy recently launched climate change.
The government has embraced the concept of smart city which is a global phenomenon as part of the country’s modernization push.
The smart city concept will see the development of Figtree as a tributary city of Bulawayo as efforts to reduce congestion in major cities gather pace.
Figtree is 38 km from Bulawayo along Plumtree Road in Matabeleland South Province. Its development is expected to create jobs while easing the pressure on infrastructure caused by Bulawayo’s growing population.
The government’s pursuit of the concept of smart cities is complemented by the nation’s citizens building modern structures in rural areas, a break from the past when rural areas were widely seen as places of retirement instead of productive settlements. which may have industries to curb. the rural to urban exodus.
Last year, the government sent a team led by the Minister of Local Government and Public Works, Cde July Moyo, to the United Arab Emirates to study how best to implement the concept.
Bulilima RDC is in the process of acquiring land from private landowners to enable the implementation of the project.
At the moment there is little development in Figtree, with most homes still to be electrified.
As part of the smart city concept, Figtree is to create industries and most homes and even industries are expected to be powered by solar energy. The city should be dominated by high-rise buildings to maximize the available land.
In an interview yesterday, the Acting Managing Director of Bulilima RDC, Mr Biliati Mlauzi said the local authority is keen to make Figtree a smart city as the concept will put Bulilima district on the map. Mr Mlauzi said that in the past Bulilima RDC mainly focused on providing accommodation stalls, the new focus will see them also provide trade stalls.
“Technical officials from the Ministry of National Housing and Social Amenities recently visited our offices to discuss how to turn Figtree into a smart city. As a local authority, we are planning a smart city in Figtree in accordance with the resolution of the government,” he said.
“We are also in consultation with people who want to invest in this project. At Figtree, we were focusing on residential stands, but in terms of commercial stands, we hadn’t done much. So we hire private landowners so that we can buy their land. »
Most private land in Figtree is owned by farmers.
Mr Mlauzi said that under the new model, Figtree would welcome home seekers, including those working in Bulawayo.
“It will be an advantage for us in terms of income generation because we will have people who will stay in Figtree while working in Bulawayo. So they will start from Figtree like what some people do in countries like South Africa where people live in another city while working in another city,” he said.
“This is what is happening in Norton and Chitungwiza.”
Mr Mlauzi said addressing delegates at the meeting of councilors and local authority staff which has just ended in Harare, the National Minister for Housing and Social Amenities, Daniel Garwe, stressed that the government was identifying investors to make Figtree a smart city.
Figtree businessman Mr. Christopher Masuku said the proposed transformation of the area into a smart city is a welcome development.
“We’ve heard about it, but we don’t really know what this smart city is all about. We want to be informed so that we can also plan ahead in order to take advantage of opportunities rather than just having strangers who benefit from these opportunities,” he said.
Mr Masuku said Figtree was very convenient as it was only a 20-minute drive from Bulawayo. Bulawayo City Council Business Development Officer, Mr. Kholisani Moyo, who is also an expert in smart city development projects, said serious investment is needed if Figtree is to become a smart city.
Bulawayo is already working on transforming the city into a smart city. Moyo said smart cities are driven by the adoption of information and communication technologies, renewable energy sources, water recycling and high-rise buildings. Mr Moyo said a smart city should be unique, unlike what the public is used to.
“A smart city needs a lot of things that will make it unique, it needs to be anchored on an industry and not just on the availability of land. For example, the government is developing Mount Hampden into a smart city and a parliament building has been built there,” he said.
“We expect the roads to also meet smart city standards.”
He said the development of a smart city is in line with the national vision to transform the country into an upper-middle-income economy by 2030. Mr. Moyo said the National Development Strategy 1 (NDS 1) which runs from 2021 to 2025 lay the foundation for the development of smart cities.
Minister Garwe recently said that other places to be developed to curb the urban rural exodus are Melfort and Chirundu, while plans are also underway to decongest Mutare, among other areas. He said developing these towns would mean decentralizing services from larger towns to make it easier for residents of towns like Plumtree and other areas to access. “The government is working to decongest cities such as Bulawayo, Harare, Mutare and others. The systems that have been put in place in these cities can no longer support the growing population, which is why we are witnessing a high number of sewer systems collapsing while some places have been without running water for years” , said Minister Garwe.