By Enacy Mapakame
Old Mutual Zimbabwe says demand for space at its SME centre near Eastgate Mall in Harare is overwhelming with more than 1 000 small to medium enterprises (SMEs) having already submitted applications for tenancy.
The SME centre, to cater for Zimbabwe’s fast growing SMEs sector is scheduled to open in July this year.
In an interview on the sidelines of the group’s annual general meeting in the capital last week, group chief executive officer Jonas Mushosho said Old Mutual was on course to open the centre in July.
The financial services institution has already signed leases with its anchor tenants.
“We have received applications from about 1 000 interested people and we are in the process of vetting them to ensure they will fit with the model we want for the market.
“There is incredible interest from the market, we have already signed leases with some of the key tenants we want in place
“We are hoping by the time we want to open sometime in July we would have given them sufficient time to come in and do their fittings,” said Mr Mushosho.
He added that the contractor was finishing up work and readying for installation of the stalls. This will be followed by the actual tenants making fittings in the building in time for opening beginning of the third quarter, which is July.
The SMEs centre will cater for about 500 stalls for SMEs and accommodation facilities for traders coming outside Harare, supermarket and vehicle parking space. It will also have about 2 000 square metres of refrigeration facilities for fresh produce.
Small farmers record post harvest losses due to lack of proper storage facilities such as refrigerators and it is estimated that 50 percent of the perishables on markets like Mbare Musika go to waste due to poor storage facilities
Other farmers from outside Harare also sell their produce at low prices to quickly return to their homes due to accommodation challenges.
The SMEs centre is therefore expected to ease such challenges for the small holder farmers and other SME businesses.
“We are busy negotiating with a partner who given us a proposal on how best we can manage the accommodation facility.
“We must take into account the needs of the people we are doing business with and the location of the market as well,” he said.
The one-stop-shop complex is being developed diagonally opposite the Eastgate Shopping Mall and will boast 11 823 square metres of prime retail space configured to accommodate a diverse range of SMEs business models under one roof.
It will be the first of its kind in Zimbabwe and Sub Sahara Africa. The estimated total cost of the Eastgate Market is $21,4 million.