The Zimbabwean Government is courting China to fund its ‘Disneyland in Africa’, a tourism and conference theme park in the resort town of Victoria Falls and is also in talks with Beijing to build a new bigger airport in the other resort town of Kariba.
The government has set aside 300 hectares of land to build a state-of-the-art conference centre to house hotels, businesses, shopping malls, banks and exhibition and entertainment facilities such as casinos near the Victoria Falls International Airport and now seeks investors for the project.
Tourism and Hospitality Minister Walter Mzembi recently said government was in negotiations for a US$460 million facility for the development the project seen as crucial to boosting tourism.
The permanent secretary in the ministry Florence Nhekairo recently led a visiting Chinese delegation – which was in the country to follow up on agreements signed between China and Zimbabwe last year – to the land near Masue River Bridge, about 10km outside Victoria Falls town and the site for the proposed recreation park and conference centre.
“This is the land where we want to build state-of-the-art conference centre to house conference rooms, hotels, shopping malls, finance houses and many other economic activities.
We are looking for people like you (China) to partner government to make our dream come true,” she told the delegation leader Cao Wenlian, who is director of the International Cooperation Centre of the National Development Reform and Commission of China (ICC-NDRC).
The senior principal director in the Office of the President and Cabinet Mary Mubi said the visit to Victoria Falls by the Chinese delegation was meant to identify areas where the Asian country could chip in financially and with technical expertise to develop the resort town into a one stop economic hub.
“We have identified areas which we need to develop as the government and Victoria Falls becomes one that has to be turned into a special economic zone. Government has already made plans to set a tourism hub in Victoria Falls. Our hope is now on the ministers of tourism, transport and that of water to make sure we get more visitors into the country to keep our tourism going,” said Mubi.
Cao said Victoria Falls had potential to be the country’s economic hub.
The conference centre is one of the capital projects the government has lined up in the resort town as it strives to turn it into its conference capital with state of the art facilities.
The other projects are the $150 million refurbishment of Victoria Falls International Airport being funded by the China-Exim Bank.
The permanent secretary in the Ministry of Transport and Infrastructural Development Munesu Munodawafa said construction of the airport was well within its schedule.
“We are well on schedule and we target to be finished by September.
The runway is now 74 percent complete and it will handle heavy category aircraft,” he said.
Also under construction is a control tower, car park, fire station, water reservoir and the VIP pavilion.
Munodawafa said they had already started marketing the airport in anticipation of getting more aircraft coming in.
In a related matter, Harare also plans to build a new bigger airport in the resort town of Kariba and is in talks with the Chinese government to fund the project.
The Chinese government, through China Exim Bank is funding the $150 million upgrade of the Victoria Falls International Airport.
The expansion work is being carried out by China Jiangsu.
Munodawafa told The Source that a new site had been identified away from the existing airport where a much bigger facility will be built.
“After Victoria Falls we want to develop national aviation infrastructure and plans are underway to look at Kariba Airport.
We have identified a site where we want to build a much bigger airport,” said Munodawafa.
He added that “our discussions with China are taking us somewhere” but declined to give more details.
The existing Kariba Airport has limitations owing to its size and equipment, which needs upgrading, he said.
“Kariba is a busy tourist destination and needs a proper airport,” Munodawafa said.
Besides the Victoria Falls Airport, the Civil Aviation Authority of Zimbabwe (CAAZ) is upgrading Joshua Mqabuko International Airport in Bulawayo, Harare International Airport and Buffalo Range Airport in Chiredzi.
At the Harare international Airport, Munodawafa said, the plan is to upgrade it to handle seven airlines at any given time up from the current four.
Source: Zim courts China to boost tourism (02/02/2015)