OLD Mutual Zimbabwe, the country's biggest player in the property sector, has pledged to fund a collaborative initiative to draft a low-cost housing and urban development strategy for the City of Harare covering the period 2025 to 2040.
A stakeholder workshop aimed at coming up with a comprehensive urban and housing strategy for Harare was held in the city last week and Old Mutual has already provided US$50 000 for the initial phase of the project.
The workshop was part of a week-long fact-finding mission involving local and international representatives that will build on the City of Harare's Vision 2025 Master Plan.
The exercise forms the first phase of a proposal for a collaborative low-cost housing and urban development strategy between the University of Pennsylvania, the University of Maryland, Old Mutual, Fuel Lab/Gensler and the City of Harare.
Old Mutual Zimbabwe group chief executive Mr Jonas Mushosho said the investment towards the project fell in line with the group's policy that constantly seeks sustainable ways of developing society.
He said transformation of the domestic economy was the key to long-term sustainable business and economic growth in Zimbabwe.
"As a leading investment and savings group with interests in property development and management we are keen to take a leading role in support of such initiatives. Zimbabwe, in general, and Harare in particular as the capital city, is very important to Old Mutual.
"Our long history spanning over 110 years demonstrates our unwavering commitment to this country," said Mr Mushosho.
"We lead the way in promoting and encouraging environmentally sustainable practices in the property industry.
"Adhering to the Green Building principles, we create properties that are energy and resource-efficient, as well as environmentally friendly.
"These principles incorporate design, construction and operational practices that significantly reduce or eliminate the negative impacts on our environment," he said.
Mr Mushosho said Old Mutual's desire for excellence motivated it to partner with the internationally-renowned Gensler, a global design firm with 20 practice areas that include architecture, city planning, interior design and product design, among others.
Gensler has worked with various cities in the developing world in coming up with sound and culturally relevant models of urban development and renewal.
Ms Thabo Lenneiye, a spokesperson for Gensler, said the stakeholders' workshop was expected to develop a strategy and a brief for the focus of the programme.
This phase also includes a research and development studio to be held at the University of Pennsylvania School of Design and the National University of Science and Technology, respectively.
"Following these sessions, which will include the production of draft plans, sketches, etc, the key stakeholders - civil society, businesses, city elected representatives, council officials - will consider different options to inform concrete and specific strategies that will guide future planning of Harare.
"The goal is to assist the City of Harare to produce a strategy as a basis for a Master Plan Towards 2040. The strategy will cover both formal and informal developments, therefore boosting potentials and reducing the efforts that are required to upgrade these types of urban patterns," said Ms Lenneiye.
She said the consultations will bring together graduate students in architecture, landscape architecture, urban planning and other related disciplines together with stakeholders in order to develop options for the future planning of Harare.
"In the process, Zimbabwean students will be exposed to urban planning, architecture and landscape architecture tools, techniques and methodologies from other parts of the world."
Findings and recommendations from the year-long exercise that has been divided into three phases will be contained in a two-part publication; Volume I, Towards a Vision 2040 for the City of Harare; Volume II, Low-Cost Housing Prototypes for Harare.