US$75 million student accommodation project kicks off

Infrastructure finance house, the Infrastructure Development Bank of Zimbabwe or IDBZ, has commissioned the construction of student hostels for the state-owned National University of Science and Technology, or NUST, in Bulawayo, the country’s second largest city.

A ground-breaking ceremony for the US$12 million project took place at NUST recently, effectively kickstarting IDBZ’s tertiary students and staff accommodation infrastructure construction project.

The IDBZ has programmed similar student accommodation projects at Lupane State University, the Chinhoyi University of Technology, Bindura University of Science Education, the Catholic University of Zimbabwe and the University of Zimbabwe for a combined cost of US$75 million.

Upon completion, the NUST student halls of residence, which comprise four-storey buildings covering a total area of 24,495 square metres, with capacity for about 1,476 students, will help reduce the current accommodation gap at the university.

Government estimates that the student population at state universities has increased to nearly 70,000 but only 17,000 have on-campus accommodation facilities.

IDBZ provided the land which it bought from a private owner, while three banks are providing the funds for the project.

Most state universities and other tertiary state institutions require investment in physical infrastructure that includes staff and student accommodation, laboratories, workshops, sporting facilities and student service centres.

The past two decades have witnessed increased numbers of students enrolling at tertiary institutions, thereby putting pressure on lecture halls, accommodation facilities, recreational and other supporting facilities.

The government, which is responsible for the funding of universities, has not been able to adequately fund public infrastructure due to budgetary constraints and has encouraged public institutions and the private sector to collaborate in infrastructure developments.

Limited availability of decent accommodation has affected the tertiary institutions’ ability to deliver on their mandates, affecting the learning experiences of their students and resulting in students living in overcrowded conditions and being exploited by landlords who charge unsustainable rentals.

The project is being undertaken under a build-operate-transfer arrangement, spanning 20 years, which will be serviced from rentals paid by students.

IDBZ’s tertiary students’ infrastructure construction project complements a parallel Higher and Tertiary Education, Science and Technology Infrastructure Bond being championed by CBZ Bank to raise US$2 billion for infrastructure development at the country’s tertiary institutions.

In a speech at the ground-breaking ceremony, Finance and Economic Development Minister Patrick Chinamasa implored universities to forge strategic partnerships with development financial institutions such as IDBZ and investors, to similarly develop sporting facilities, student service centres, laboratories and workshops, which are vital for the promotion of research and development activities.

The government owns 87.24% of IDBZ while the remaining shareholding is split between the central bank (12.43%) and some local and foreign investors (0.33%).