HARARE – Zimbabwe’s struggling construction industry sees itself getting a reprieve from a projects drought that has sparked firm closures and job losses in the past decade after the country’s Ministry of Finance switched from its traditional consumptive budgeting strategy to line up billions worth of infrastructure deals in its 2019 fiscal planning.

This is according to a comprehensive analysis of the infrastructure purse for 2019 released by the Construction Industry Federation of Zimbabwe (CIFOZ) to its members to demonstrate opportunities that can be unlocked through public sector construction projects.

CIFOZ makes an empirical review of each and every project that is set to be constructed, spanning from dams, houses, bridges, schools and hospitals, including plans to electrify 435 public institutions in order to bring power to rural communities.

Only 20 percent of Zimbabwe’s rural communities are connected to the power grid.

This will add to the rapid expansion and rehabilitation of power infrastructure countrywide, which will cost about $460 million.

“In line with our goal for universal access to energy, including ensuring that every household has access to one modern source of energy, particularly renewable, the electricity grid will be extended to unserved rural communities where only 20 of households are electrified,” the ministry said.

“Under the Rural Electrification Programme, 435 public institutions will be electrified at a cost of $21 million, drawing from the Rural Electrification Fund. The budget provision of $1 million will support construction of 15 biogas digesters at a cost of $0,4 million, whilst $0,6 million will fund feasibility studies for small hydro power plants,” CIFOZ’s paper says.

The shortage of power comes with a string of negative implications to the economy, such as high failure rates in science subjects, and lack of facilities to preserve vital drugs in health centres.

But it is not only in education and health sectors where Zimbabwe’s efforts to rebuild the economy can be affected by rolling power blackouts.

Key sectors like the mining industry, which generates about $3 billion for the country a year, are among those affected due to the proximity of mines to remote locations.

Chamber of Mines of Zimbabwe data reveal that prolonged blackouts are wiping at least $4 billion out of Zimbabwe’s mines annually, exerting more pressures on the economy, which is already facing serious fuel and foreign currency shortages.

Following a decade of dollarisation that briefly calmed its economy and propelled jittery markets back to stability, Zimbabwe’s industries have been affected by the power shortages again.

Taking advantage of the abundant sunshine in the country, government will also commence the roll out of solar mini grid systems in the country, at a cost of $3,1 million.

The construction sector is an important avenue for stimulating gross domestic product and employment creation.

There are few other sectors that have this kind of employment impact, particularly in relation to the employment of semi- and unskilled labour.

Zimbabwe’s government appears to have realised this and is making moved to deploy resources into rural electrification, which is part of a bigger strategy meant to revamp the ageing power infrastructure.

This programme was accelerated with the commissioning by President Emmerson Mnangagwa of the $1,5 billion Hwange Thermal Power Station expansion project in June last year, under a loan from China.