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Old Mutual builds premises for SMEs

Financial services group Old Mutual is set to develop the Eastgate Metro Centre meant to house small to medium enterprises (SMEs) in the manufacturing, processing and retail sectors as a way to grow occupancies.

BY TATIRA ZWINOIRA

The move comes at a time companies have been shunning town offices for out of town residential places that have been turned into offices. It also comes on the back of increased informalisation in which the big brands are fading away.

Speaking to Standardbusiness on the sidelines of the launch of the project, Old Mutual property general manager Gilbert Gumpo said to ensure they reached the December 2017 deadline, they would be redeveloping existing structures.

“When you look at the site that we are talking about, these are run down markets and we will go block by block to see what other uses those buildings will be put to,” Gumpo said.

“We will be looking at redevelopment of existing properties to SME centres. For example, we have already got two floors for SMEs and have something on the seventh floor at Eastgate. at our development at Westgate where we are bringing KFC and Puma and we are developing a space for SMEs.”

He said repayment for the investment into the project would take between eight and 11 years.

A total of 15 000 square metres will be rented space for SMEs with 2 000 square metres provided for refrigeration space for SMEs who deal in fresh produce.
The Eastgate Metro Centre is supposed to accommodate 513 market stalls ranging from 10 to 50 square metres in size.

Old Mutual are targeting SMEs such as hair salons, cobblers, carpenters, dressmakers, fresh produce dealers, internet cafes and food outlets, among others.
One retail shop is expected to feature on the site once construction is finished.

The move to target SMEs includes tapping into 20 000 vendors in the central business district.

SMEs minister Sithembiso Nyoni said government had identified appropriate workspace for SMEs as one of the major drivers for the development of the sector.

SMEs are plagued by lack of suitable infrastructure to fully conduct their business that has seen the CBD congested since dollarisation.

Old Mutual group chief executive officer Jonas Mushosho said to support the national policy on financial inclusion, the company had developed the Eastgate Metro Centre as a suitable development area for SMEs.

“The growth of the informal sector over the past 10 years naturally presented real estate investors with an opportunity to design and construct suitable working space for the SMEs and informal sectors,” Mushosho said.

“In response to changes in sectoral compositions of Zimbabwe’s economy, we saw a business opportunity to develop the Eastgate Market specifically for SMEs and the informal market.”

Construction of the new development is expected to be completed by December 2017 with costs being financed by Old Mutual’s banking unit, Cabs.

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