New tourism drive for Great Zimbabwe heritage site

Features Writer

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SIXTEEN media houses met at the Great Zimbabwe World Heritage Site in Masvingo last week,
to share stories of the ancient city and open a new chapter in the development of the site and
tourism at the Ancient City.
 
The Great Zimbabwe Development Project (GZDP) was launched earlier this year by President
Emmerson Mnangagwa, together with Agence Française de Développement (AFD).
Funded by AFD, the project aims to develop the Great Zimbabwe Heritage Site and promote
sustainable and inclusive tourism.
 
The French public development institution, Agence Française de Développement (AFD), and the
United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS) hosted last week’s event.
Thibaud Delplancke, AFD Investment Officer for Zimbabwe and Malawi, shared how cultural
heritage could be impactful for socio-economic development.
AFD’s portfolio for cultural heritage has a regional dimension and tries to develop a
comprehensive approach to foster conservation development and sustainability.
“The approach that AFD will take for the project enables amplification of a wide range of
impacts including community development, empowerment of women, strengthening of art and
crafts as well as sustainable enhancement of the site and its natural environment,” explained
Delplancke.
 
To this end, AFD’s portfolio tries to have a comprehensive approach on critical sectors in
Masvingo Province, where the Great Zimbabwe site lies.
This diversified portfolio aims at developing education tools for youths on Climate Smart
Agriculture to achieve food security (with the Ministry of Agriculture), diversifying tourism to
increase revenues for local population (with the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority), to achieve better
biodiversity management to protect natural resources on Lake Mutirikwi national park (with
ZimParks), and to develop renewable energies through solar energy (with the Infrastructure
Development Bank of Zimbabwe).
 
The Great Zimbabwe World Heritage site is the only heritage site after which a country derives
its name. It was declared a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization
(UNESCO) World Heritage Site in 1986. Although it is recognised as one of the most
spectacular architectural and cultural landscapes in Africa, it has not yet been developed to its
full potential as a tourist attraction and this is the context to last week’s media tour.

Working with the National Museums and Monuments of Zimbabwe (NMMZ), the project will
strengthen Zimbabwean capacity for heritage preservation and enhancement and develop
revenues to make the site economically viable in the long term. 
Dr Godfrey Mahachi, the Executive Director of the NMMZ explained thus: “The Great
Zimbabwe Heritage site has strong tourism potential due to its uniqueness and its powerful
symbolism of African cultural and political identity. This project aims to enhance how the site
tells the story of Great Zimbabwe, the Shona people who created it, and its place in the history of
Africa,”
On the infrastructure side, the Euro 3-million project will upgrade facilities at the World
Heritage site to meet international standards and enhance the visitor experience.
It will be managed by UNOPS in collaboration with the National Museums and Monuments of
Zimbabwe (NMMZ) under the Ministry of Home Affairs and Cultural Heritage (MOHACH) and
in partnership with UNESCO.
UNOPS, whose expertise lies in infrastructure development and project management,
implements such projects with a focus on national capacity building and sustainability.  The
project will not only seek to enhance the cultural heritage of Zimbabwe by improving the
conservation and preservation of this iconic site, but also improve its attractiveness as a local,
regional and international tourist destination.
 
During the tour last week, Zimbabwean and foreign media learnt details about the project and its
potential impact on nearby communities. In addition to the reconstruction and upgrading of
facilities on the 800-hectare property, the project will also include the provision of capacity-
building workshops, training, and equipment to assist NMMZ in the conservation and
documentation of the heritage site, which is one of the largest dry-stone structures in sub-
Saharan Africa.
 
AFD Group implements France’s policy in the areas of development and international solidarity.
The Group includes Agence Française de Développement (AFD), which finances the public
sector and NGOs, as well as research and education in sustainable development; its subsidiary
Proparco, which is dedicated to private sector financing; and Expertise France, a technical
cooperation agency. The Group finances supports and accelerates transitions towards a fairer,
more resilient world.

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