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Centum CEO urges public-private partnerships to revitalise SEZs

GROUP CEO of East Africa’s largest listed investment firm, Centum Investment Company, Dr James Mworia, has urged Zimbabwean businesses to partner with the government to establish thriving special economic zones (SEZs).

SEZs are designated areas that offer tax breaks and regulatory advantages to attract foreign direct investment and stimulate economic activity. They are a proven tool for attracting foreign businesses, creating jobs, and boosting exports.
“Special Economic Zones act as strategic catalysts, providing a favourable environment for business growth,” Mworia told delegates at a recent BPL Africa Connect Business Conference in Harare.

Deputy Finance Minister David Mnangagwa addressing delegates
at the BPL Africa Connect Business Conference

His comments come after Centum established Two Rivers International Finance & Innovation Centre (TRIFIC) as Kenya’s first privately-owned business service zone within a Special Economic Zone.
TRIFIC offers a unique opportunity for global, regional, and Kenyan service-oriented businesses, such as financial services, technology and innovation firms, Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) companies, professional service providers, and other emerging service sectors seeking a competitive base to access international markets.
The zone functions as a hub for international service enterprises to access local talent and provide high-quality services at competitive prices globally while fostering job creation and innovation.
Mworia highlighted the numerous advantages of SEZs, including streamlined regulations, superior infrastructure, and enhanced market access, making them ideal locations for businesses seeking African expansion.
“As Kenya’s sole Special Economic Zone dedicated to business services, TRIFIC provides a strategic platform offering a unique, conducive, and competitive environment brimming with exciting prospects for global, regional, and Kenyan service-oriented businesses aiming to grow, expand, or diversify,” he said.
“From attractive incentives to streamlined one-stop-shop services, TRIFIC is poised to become Africa’s gateway to the world.”
Zimbabwe has designated 15 SEZs, but the country has struggled to maximise their potential. Experts believe the lack of comprehensive regulations and a clear framework are partly to blame for the lack lustre performance of SEZs in the country.
Law firm Mawere-Sibanda argues that the success of SEZs hinges on external factors like general infrastructure.
“For instance, robust road, rail, and power networks within the zone are essential to attract foreign investors, facilitating the seamless movement of goods and services,” the firm noted.
“The ZIDA Act places the burden of developing this general infrastructure on developers and the SEZ occupants themselves. This approach has proven ineffective as investors are hesitant to shoulder such infrastructure costs.”
“Zimbabwe’s overall economic performance has also hampered the success of SEZs by not providing the necessary enabling environment,” they added.
“Policy inconsistencies and currency volatility have been significant roadblocks.”