Chinese investment changes face of downtown Harare

17:25, July 13, 2010      

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Downtown Harare has assumed a new image characterized by clean, spruced up buildings that now house mostly small to medium Chinese retail firms.

Most commercial buildings s in downtown Harare had become an eyesore in recent years as landlords struggled to maintain them due to the harsh economic environment that prevailed in the country prior to the formation of an inclusive government last year which brought political and economic stability.

Some of the structures, built before 1980, had either been turned into squalid homes by vagrants while others became havens for criminal activities.

The unfavorable economic climate that prevailed before 2009 pushed most firms out of business, leaving quite a number of city buildings vacant.

Concerned about the poor state of the buildings, government a few years ago ordered owners of commercial buildings in Harare to refurbish their buildings and bring them to good condition.

A few companies managed to refurbish while the majority, particularly the disused, remained in poor state.

But the face of downtown Harare has changed dramatically as Chinese investors coming into the country have brought business for commercial landlords who are refurbishing their buildings for use by Chinese retailers.

A Harare landlord who requested anonymity told Xinhua on Monday that his building which had become derelict because of the harsh economic environment was undergoing intensive refurbishments to cater for Chinese and other foreign commercial tenants.

"I have had to convert the car park of this building into shops as demand for retail space mainly by the Chinese and Nigerians soar," the landlord said while keeping an eye on workers plastering one of the cluster shops.

Harare was not used to the phenomenon of small, cluster shops but this has become the trend as property owners seek to maximize on land available.

The Chinese are specializing in selling clothes, blankets, household and enamel ware, electrical gadgets and even bicycles, among other products.

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