The Eastgate Market, a Small to Medium Enterprises (SME) Complex which was built by Old Mutual is set to be commissioned before the end of the year. General finishes and decorative works are currently being done. A footbridge will link the market to Eastgate Mall. The mall is also owned by Old Mutual. On completion, the Eastgate Market will be the biggest one stop shop market housing SMEs in sub-Saharan Africa. It covers almost 12 000 square metres. It will be the first of its kind in Zimbabwe and sub-Saharan Africa. The total cost of the project is estimated to be $21.4 million.
The building will have 500 stalls for SMEs, a supermarket, accommodation, parking space as well as 2 000 square metres of refrigeration facilities for fresh produce. It is believed that 50% of perishables go to waste owing to poor storage facilities at markets such as Mbare Musika. The Eastgate Market will therefore eliminate this challenge. In addition, farmers from outside Harare have had to sell their produce for low prices in order to quickly return home because they have no accommodation in Harare. With accommodation on site, farmers will sell in a relaxed environment and realise maximum returns on their produce. Safety and security have also been considered unlike at Mbare Musika where security has always been a concern. It is likely that hygiene will be taken care of as well. The location of the market in central Harare will benefit SMEs as huge human traffic is guaranteed.
Old Mutual have adopted a flexible leasing model. Where some sections of the market will require “Know Your Customer” (KYC) documents and other mandatory company documents, other sections will not. This is in line with government’s thrust on financial inclusion.
Since the Eastgate Market has different sections for different businesses, different rental prices will apply. Depending on size and physical location on the mall, retail shops will be pegged at between $25 and $40 per square metre per month. The mezzanine floor which will accommodate offices will be leased between $8 and $12 per square metre. At the moment, installation of market stalls is ongoing and prices for this section will be announced in due course. Old Mutual Group Chief Executive Officer, Jonas Mushosho announced earlier in the year that interest from potential tenants was very high with a number of tenants having already signed leases.
It is important to take into account the fact that the Eastgate Market is opening its doors at a time when currency problems are rife. The effect on occupancy levels as well as the business sense for SMEs to operate in the CBD during such a time will be assessed as time goes on. Occupancy levels are already declining in other buildings in the CBD due to financial challenges and it remains to be seen whether the market will attract enough interest in terms of tenants.
There is no doubt that Eastgate Market provides the required one stop shopping experience that benefits both SMEs and their customers. In comparison to Mbare Musika, the new market is certainly an improvement. It is the timing that may present viability challenges.