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Journal of Social Development in Africa 1988 3 2 5 16 Rural Growth Points in Zimbabwe prospects for the future K H WEKWETE ABSTRACT This paper briefly examines the context of rural growth points in Zimbabwe since Independence 1980 It examines prospects for rural industrial and commercial growth in the light of a highly centralised industrial and commercial base dominated by monopolistic and oligopolistic firms A number of possible small scale industry opportunities are identified which lead to an assessment of the current role of central and local government initiatives Introduction The term growth point is widely used in Zimbabwe to denote settlements which are earmarked or designated for economic and physical development The terminology is often confusing because of the wide range of settlements to which it is applied ranging from small rural centres to setdements the size of Chitungwiza the third largest town in Zimbabwe This wide application also results in policy problems particularly in terms of incentives required to attract investment and the support which central government has to give Growm points can generally be defined as settlements rural or urban which central and local government consider have a potential for further development and hence need to be supported by further public and private sector investment In me immediate post independence era post 1980 the focus of the growth centre policy was on rural areas The centres points were identified in the communal areas and would receive public sector investment to improve physical and social infrastructure This investment estimated at 60 million between 1983 4 1985 6 would be directed at the following water reticulation internal roads sewage electricity and other community services The main focus was on physical development which was perceived as a basis on which private and other public capital would be attracted to the centres In an effort to redress the imbalanced nature of the colonial Paper presented to the 4th Annual Congress of the Association of District Councils November 1987 Nyanga Zimbabwe Dept of Rural and Urban Planning P O Box MP167 Mount Pleasant Harare Zimbabwe e A H Wlkwete economy the development of settlements District Centres Rural Service Centres and business centres was seen as providing important foci for locating investment Their development would improve the image or attractiveness of the communal areas as potential investment areas This paper addresses the issue of improving the potential and examining prospects for the decentralisation of economic activities and for local rural industrialisation in communal areas The paper examines some of the current government initiatives to strengthen economic development of the centres growth points and some of the limiting structural factors Finally some suggestions are made on possible future strategies and how local authorities should respond Policy and Public Sector Investment Programme Since its inception as policy in 1981 the growth centre policy has been characterised by a focus on the physical development of designated centres Each of the 55 district council areas has a district centre which has a de facto growth point status growth point area Through the Public Sector Investment Programme each of the centres has received a minimum of Z 160 000 for infrastructural development More investment has flowed particularly housing for the different government ministries whose operations have been decentralised to mese centres The nature of the district centres vary but most of them reveal the typical predominance of low order commercial services general dealers etc and administrative services central and local government The implementation of the physical infrastructure programme was perceived in three phases phase 1 1983 4 phase 2 1984 5 phase 3 1985 6 For most centres the targeted investment has been installed and in some cases more physical infrastructure investment has been granted usually the more vibrant centres Murewa Gutu Gokwe In most districts the attention has shifted to the smaller rural service centres and business centres which form the lower ranks of the settlement hierarchy At central and local government levels the question most often asked is how do we make growth points grow What should be promoted and how In 1978 government passed statutory instruments 57 and 58 which relate to income tax and sales tax provisions respectively for prospective investors in growth point areas Such provisions include reduction in income tax for companies locating in growth points and sales tax exemptions for the purchases of capital equipment The incentives are aimed at attracting potential entrepreneurs to invest and also to attract existing large firms to decentralise The statutory instruments follow the gazetting of land constituting each service centre and the preparation of physical layout plans Another initiative by central government has been the establishment of Rural Growth Points in Zimbabwe 7 the Urban Development Corporation in 1986 whose terms of reference include to generate employment and encourage the development of commerce and industry within development areas Urban Development Corporation Act 1986 This initiative was in addition to the Small Enterprises Development Corporation established in 1983 One of its key objectives is to encourage and assist in the establishment of co operatives and small commercial and industrial enterprises At local government level local audiorities in conjunction with die Department of Physical Planning have been preparing investment brochures for each of the growth centres District as information for potential investors Efforts are also being made to provide housing and related services to attract existing firms to invest in the rural areas Therefore following what can be termed the infrastructure phase policy has now shifted towards the stimulation of economic activity This shift is logical but it is also a realisation that infrastructure on its own will not necessarily attract investment Given mat there are 55 District centres growth point areas and many other small towns which can apply for growth point status the competition for investment for each is stiff The advantages for each centre are likely to stem from its natural endowment eg location in high productive area or location at important nodal fed for public and private transport Out of die 55 centres it is estimated that no more than 10 centres

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