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In picture from the right, Patience Munetsi, chairing the session, Andrew Muchechetere, Tendayi Hlupo and Ken Sharpe who presented online. pic by Shingirai Vambe

CEO Africa Roundtable Conference, No-Holds-Barred

By Shingirai Vambe

In the majestic shadow of Victoria Falls, a gathering of visionaries convened to tackle the behemoths of business in Zimbabwe and beyond. For three days, over 300 CEOs from diverse sectors united to share experiences, brainstorm solutions, and challenge the status quo, the Post can report.

The 10th edition annual conference was a testament to the power of collaboration and the unrelenting human spirit that laid bare and exposed authorities failing to address recurring business challenges and trade in Zimbabwe and the region.

Surviving on the borrowed confidence and trust the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe deputy Governor, Dr  Innocent Matshe tried his best to build the little confidence into the people who have been injected to policy inconsistencies, struggling to keep business going, even to pay their employees’ salaries.

He took the stage to reassure the assembly that the Zimbabwe Gold (ZiG) was steadying the economic ship. With a calm demeanor and a wealth of expertise, he presented a compelling case for the currency’s stabilizing effects. However, his words were met with a healthy dose of skepticism, as memories of past promises unkept still lingered.

Oswell Binha, CEO ART board chairman, ignited the crowd with a passionate plea for harmony among monetary authorities, government, and business leaders. With unflinching candor, he declared that trust had been shattered, and that empty promises would no longer suffice. His words struck a chord, resonating deeply with the audience.

“Dr Matshe you last statement is very telling so the next best bank is the street and with all the consequences. what we need to achieve here is the equilibrium, where monetary authorities play their role, the government plays its role, the business sector plays its role,” said Binha.

“What i seem to see at the centre of this conversation is that, Dr Matshe and your team, we don’t trust you. the presentation you are making  with those numbers, have been made consistently from the time you introduced the bond note, and they will be so convincing and one of the thing that was so destructive to me is, how did we end up changing a platform into a currency, despite all these assurances,” added Binha.

He further added their unfruitful efforts to meet with the new Central Bank governor, John Mushayavanhu to share current state of the business and expectations that citizens are looking forward to have from the country’s economy.

One of the delegates told the central bank that they took $100 000 from his account which he hasn’t recovered, with the bank offering a paltry 7.5 percent  against a projected 30 percent or more if he had used the money for his business.

On various platforms, banks always shift the blame to RBZ on its regulations and instruments guiding them to operate, which comes with a cost effectively being transferred to citizens or account holders.

His Excellency the President of the Republic of Zimbabwe, Dr. Emmerson D. Mnangagwa officially opening the CEO ART annual Conference in Victoria Falls. on his left is the Minister of Industry and Commerce, Nqobizitha Mangaliso Ndlovu, on his right side is CEO ART board chairman, Oswell Binha, Zambia Chairman, Gedion Chibuye and Botswana Chairman, Tryphinah Dongwana. pic by Shingirai Vambe

The delegates also raised questions about the country’s monetary status, which President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who officially opened the conference, was unable to answer. The conference featured various sessions, including AI and the African Business Context, Promoting intra-African Trade, and Finance Markets, with three sessions – Health and Wellness, Finance Markets, and Transitioning from Colonial to Modern Cities – grabbing the spotlight.

Africa is a continent in transition, particularly on the infrastructure front with some significant strides made towards modernizing the African cities. The infrastructure gap alone is immense, closing it will require a more than doubling of existing investment to an estimated $130-$170 billion per year, the bulk of it deployed in cities.

Westprop Holdings, CEO Ken Sharpe, Amre Investments, Engineer Andrew Muchechetere and Zim Cyber City CEO, Tendayi Hlupo-Mamvura shared the country’s future trajectory on modern cities and obstacles that are causing the country to lag behind.

The conference highlighted the need for a framework that enables innovation and modernization, with outdated legislation and bureaucracy hindering progress. The importance of sustainable cities, renewable energy, and technology was also emphasized, with experts sharing their vision for a modernized Zimbabwe.

“Building a sustainable city is a revolutionary idea that requires a new approach to legislation, we face challenges in building a smart city, as current legislation does not provide incentives or instruments to support it. The legislation is outdated, and facilitators ask what I am exporting or manufacturing, not understanding that value lies in innovation, not physical exports,” added Hlupo-Mamvura.

“There is need for a framework that enables people to contribute ideas and technologies that enable modernisation and digital businesses. The proposed framework should evaluate safety, protection, and delivery, quickly. The current legislation, such as the archaic 1977 Rural-Urban Town Planning Act, regulators use discretion, creating uncertainty,” said Hlupo Mamvura.

Eng Muchechetere shared on the vision and work being done to change the face of Matebeleland North, making use of the vast pieces of land stretching from Hwange to Victoria Falls.

Despite the knowledge and money that people have, authorities and legislators require sensitization programs and education on how to deal with bureaucracy as most of the projects currently being done, have already been overtaken by events. this also extend to amenities such as water and ablution, energy to mention just a few.

Developers bemoaned the time at which government take to look and approve project proposals. Sharpe confirmed and said his project took him 15 years to be signed in with some structures on his plans having them to be removed and changed to meet modern standards, and that comes at a cost.

Sharpe told delegates that due to the rising effects of climate change, the water level has gone down with most boreholes being contaminated, but he has a managed to secure a water purification model which he donated 1000 to first volunteers going to take up the system and use if for domestic purposes.

“We need to get on the bus and build our country together. The bus has definitely not left… Technology is continually evolving, iterations are made by developers every second of every day of every year, and all the technology companies around the world. So, what we are seeing today with the imminent introduction of AI, I think, is still at play in the developed world. And certainly, in Zimbabwe, our time is coming,” said Sharpe.

The modern smart city agenda is the new world order, with countries focusing on Artificial Intelligence, sustainable use and harnessing of energy and water as well as reduction of carbon gas emissions. The idea is to accommodate more people at a small piece of land with all the amenities.

The subject of cost, time and labor force is being addressed in modern day construction, where the material and equipment being used for construction is reducing costs, and time. Hlupo-Mavura however shared during the session that building material is very expensive in Zimbabwe as compared to the cost of importing from outside of the country.

The Zimbabwe Energy Regulatory Authority (ZERA) is urging citizens and investors to look into mini grids, solar power and hydro. ZERA CEO, Eddington Mazambani said there is potential for growth in the sustainable renewable energy infrastructure with incentives.

Chief Executive of CEO ART, Kipson Gundani thanked delegates who made it to the conference. he gave the CEOs a thrilling adventure of a game drive and boat cruise in the neighbouring country, Botswana. CEOs visited and enjoyed the big five at Chobe game park and a cruise where various fauna species where seen.

Overall, the conference was a call to action, running under the theme, ‘The future of Africa: Modernise, Reshape and Grow’,  urging authorities, legislators, and business leaders to work together to address the economic and business challenges facing Zimbabwe and the region. As Ken Sharpe, CEO of Westprop Holdings, aptly put it, “We need to get on the bus and build our country together. The bus has definitely not left…”