Old Mutual’s $21,4 million complex for small to medium enterprise is expected to be completed by mid-year.The one-stop-shop complex now boasts of 11 823 square metres of prime retail space configured to accommodate a diverse range of SME business models under one roof. It will be the first of its kind in Zimbabwe and Sub-Saharan Africa.
On completion, the project will have about 12 000 square metres space to let. Old Mutual Property marketing consultant Milton Chowadzera, said investing towards the SME sector was confirmation of the group’s recognition of the role the sector was playing in the economy.
“The project has a budget of $21,4 million. The Old Mutual SME Centre is scheduled to be completed within the second quarter of 2018. In line with this target, we are proud to inform you we have already achieved various project milestones to date such as the completion of the superstructure, roofing and the majority of concrete works,” said Mr Chowadzera.
Old Mutual is aware of lack of convenient premises and access to markets are some of the major issues inhibiting desired growth levels of the SME Sector. It is against this background that the Eastgate SME Centre was conceived with a specific aim of addressing these challenges faced by SMEs.
“Given the characteristics of the SME sector, we have adopted a much more flexible leasing model, which we are going to use for space allocation at the SME centre. Some of the requirements will be basic “Know Your Customer” (KYC) and business documentation, which are there mainly to help us understand an applicant’s business better and how it will deliver value to customers visiting the mall.
“The leasing of space will be structured to ensure a responsive tenant mix to the requirements of the SME Centre patrons. This is to ensure that we are able to offer a unique one stop shopping convenience for customers,” he said.
Apart from providing 500 bays, the centre will also have accommodation facilities for traders coming outside of Harare, a supermarket, parking space and 2 000 square metres of refrigeration facilities for fresh produce.Smallholder farmers are insuring huge post-harvest losses due to lack of proper storage facilities such as refrigerators.
It is estimated that 50 percent of perishables on pavements and other markets such as Mbare Musika go to waste due to poor storage facilities. A footbridge will link the SME Centre with the Eastgate Mall, another property owned by Old Mutual.
Mr Chawodzera said: “As Old Mutual, we are fully cognizant of the role of SMEs in the development of the economy in Zimbabwe. However, in as much as this role is pronounced, it is worthy to note that SMEs continue to face a wide range of challenges that inhibit their growth.
“Chief amongst the binding constraints towards the flourishment of SMEs is the lack of suitably designed trading space. In essence the thinking behind Old Mutual SME Centre is entirely to harness the growth of SMEs through the provision of suitably designed and functional trading space.
“We also considered the fact that location is of strategic importance for business. The SME centre is located in the prime area of the CBD and as such shop owners stand to benefit from the diverse human traffic that will be frequenting the mall.” Old Mutual is willing to participate in the rebooting of the economy following the difficulties in the mainstream economy and funding SMEs will drive future economic growth.–herald