Mulk International, a Sharjah-based industrial conglomerate, has begun to build a $500 million high-tech park in Zimbabwe that is expected to boost the country's economic development.
Zim Cyber City is being built in Mount Hampden on the outskirts of the capital, Harare, and is the first large-scale investment by a UAE-based business entity in the African nation, Mulk International said on Thursday.
The project also marks the first real estate investment channelled through the Zimbabwe Global Investments (ZGI) Special Economic Zone programme.
The development, spread across more than 232,257 square metres, includes government, residential and commercial buildings, and was granted an exclusive licence to develop a special economic zone dedicated to blockchain and digital assets, the company said.
The project's ground-breaking ceremony was attended by Zimbabwe President Emmerson Mnangagwa. It was proposed to him during his visit to Expo 2020 Dubai earlier this year.
The development is expected to strengthen the relationship between the UAE and Zimbabwe, and “stands to become Zimbabwe’s landmark project, offering a world-class, high-end lifestyle to all the residents”, Mr Mnangagwa said.
Zimbabwe is seeking to attract more foreign direct investment to boost its economy following the impact of the coronavirus-induced slowdown.
FDI inflows declined to $194 million in 2020, from $745m in 2018, before the onset of Covid-19, according to data from the UN Conference on Trade and Development.
The country's gross domestic product is expected to grow by 3.7 per cent in 2022, down from 5.8 per cent in 2021, driven by the recovery of its agriculture and industry sectors and a stabilisation of prices and exchange rates, according to the World Bank.
Zim Cyber City's master plan includes the newly completed parliament building, ministry buildings, 250 townhouses, more than 80 luxury villas, apartment blocks, offices, a high-end retail arcade and a 15-storey commercial tower.
It will also allow for the special window clearance of blockchain and digital asset licences and bank accounts.
Corporate licence holders within the zone will have access to incentives, including free repatriation of capital and profits without any limits and the ease of fund transfers in and out of the country through local or foreign bank accounts without any caps, the company said.
They will also benefit from tax exemptions for five years, freehold resale of property and permission to employ foreign staff at a flat rate of 15 per cent tax.
“Zim Cyber City is the first of many investments that our group has committed to delivering through the special economic status channel of ZGI,” said Nawab Ul Mulk, chairman of Mulk International.
ZGI, which is responsible for clearing FDI into Zimbabwe, offers investors incentives such as corporate tax exemptions for the first five years of operations.
Mulk International has a diversified portfolio primarily spanning four sectors — building materials, plastics, health care and cricket assets — and manages a group of 18 companies.
Its parent, Mulk Holdings, owns Alubond USA, an aluminium composite panel brand with investments in Europe, Asia and Africa.