There is a new investment baby about to be born opposite KUhES Sports Complex in Blantyre courtesy of ZST Investment Company, owners of Crossroads Chain Hotels and other famous eateries in Malawi. The new project is in form of a modern multi-purpose conference facility replete with a five-star hotel and other services. Our Reporter BRIAN ITAI caught up with the chairperson of ZST Investment Company Haroon Sacranie who shared insights about the upcoming mega project. Excerpts:
Q:You have unveiled this investment, take us through what the project will comprise of?
A:As ZST Investments Limited, we have been in business for over 40 years here in Malawi. In the last 20 years, we have done two major investments in the hospitality industry. We built two Crossroads hotels, one in Lilongwe and another in Blantyre. This will be our third major Crossroads hotel and shopping complex. As you can see from the photos, it is a big project and we are hoping to invest at least $25 million or even probably a little bit more. It is prestigious and it is a big project.
Q:What special features comes along with the project?
A: This structure is going to be a five-star hotel with 96 bedrooms, an international conference room, with a lot of conference rooms of different sizes and auditoriums. The biggest one will be a 1000-seater which will be used for conferencing, banqueting and weddings. It will have 250 parking bays, a whole shopping complex with supermarkets, children playing area, food court and a lot of retail outlets. It will be a big complex.
Q: When is the project expected to fully roll out?
A: We are expected to get started in a month or so. There is also a filling station coming up as part of the project as well. We hope to start in two weeks and the whole project will take us about two years to finish.
Q:What does this new investment mean to your business?
A: Well, ZST Investments has been investing for long. But when we diversified in the last 20 years by venturing in the hotel and tourism sector, we have grown slowly. Our recent project in Blantyre has come out very nice and despite the Covid-19 pandemic and the negativity that is going on, we still have the confidence that things will return to normal and Malawi is also set to grow in terms of the population in the next 10 years. And this area, where the project is situated, is very strategic between Limbe and Blantyre and it will create a lot of value for residents in the surrounding areas. With all the traffic, they don’t need to drive all the way just to have a pizza. Overall, in line with the Malawi 2063 programme, where tourism hubs have been planned, this is going to be one of the most important hubs.
Q:In terms of creating employment, how many people do you expect to be employed here both in the
short and long term?
A:You know at every construction project, there will be 500 to 700 people that will be busy on the site. Once the project is ready, you can imagine the number of vacancies that will require to be filled among all the wings of the structure. Apart from the job creation, the biggest thing that will happen is that we will support the rural farmers by strengthening our ties with them in terms of the supply chain. They will be supplying all the vegetables and fruits, which
they are already doing in our two hotels and food courts. This will be another opportunity for rural agriculture investment. This type of investment has a lot of ripple effect in terms of job creation, the micro and macro-economics and that’s what we need in Malawi.
Q:There is a perception that normally the pricing of such services is not that inclusive considering the economy of Malawi, what is your take on this?
A:These are the things that will come up from the ministry if the need will be there. We are very innovative. We own all the food courts in Malawi. That is one strategy that we can work on, whereby we are able to come up with specials so that we include the people with lesser budgets. We already have that in the food court system whereby we have places for people with different incomes.
Q:. In the recent road rehabilitation project in Lilongwe there was an issue between environmentalists and project implementers on the other end. Have you made any considerations as to how you will circumvent issues of environment?
A:We are involved in the tree planting exercise in quite a big way. We have done it in the past and every year we always do that through Rotary Clubs and with some institutions who come up. We always have that programme as our corporate social responsibility. We will be able to compensate the loss here. And in our redesigning of the place we will replant a few trees to create the shade and all that. We retain the beauty that the place had and even improve it. n