Structure and Design has been following the development of the exciting new Eastgate Market for some time. The Eastgate Market was first featured in issue 6 in an article entitled “Re-imagining the way Harare works”. At this time the building was still in the early stages of construction but it was evident that the Market would be a game changer for the CBD. The Eastgate Market was designed by the renowned local firm Pearce, McComish, Tarabuku Architects on behalf of their clients Old Mutual Zimbabwe. The Eastgate Market was a bold and visionary move on the part of Old Mutual to help resuscitate the inner city and participate in the rebooting of the national economy.
There are an estimated 2,000 vendors spread across Harare often selling their goods in unhygienic conditions and contributing to the general chaos in the City. In addition the vendors face harsh conditions and are continuously harassed by the authorities attempting to restore order to the streets. The section of Robert Mugabe Road between Second Street and Fourth Street, where the Market is now situated, was particularly congested and disorderly.
All of that has now dramatically improved thanks to Old Mutual’s ground breaking development. Some semblance of order has been restored to the area around the Eastgate Mall and the Eastgate Market making for a much better environment for the public, vendors and shop owners. The Eastgate Market is one of the biggest one stop shop markets for SMEs in sub-Saharan Africa making it a unique and exciting feature in inner city development. It’s estimated that SMEs contribute around 50 per cent of the gross domestic product and provide employment for around 60 per cent of the working population. Local company Masimba Holdings was the main contractor for the construction of the Eastgate Market, probably the biggest project in the City in recent years.
The project is a confirmation of Old Mutual commitment towards providing decent affordable trading space for SMEs. This massive project started towards the end of 2016 and was completed early 2019. Eastgate Market was once again featured in Structure and Design issue 17, just before the trade opening. Now that Eastgate Market has been up and running for around a year Structure and Design returned to the site to find out how the project is operating. This vibrant new market is made up of ample retail space, including 31 street facing shops, 270 individual stalls in the main market area, shops, offices and 24 units on the first floor, 6 kitchens for food outlets, 64 stalls for fresh fruit and vegetable sellers as well as a spacious cold room and refrigeration facility for fresh produce. (It’s estimated that around 50 per cent of fresh produce at other markets like Mbare Musika goes to waste due to inadequate storage facilities.)
In addition, there’s Foodworld Supermarket, a section devoted to office furniture and parking for tenants’ cars. The mixed use nature of the market complex means it’s always bustling with energy and activity. It is open seven days a week and tenants can choose their opening hours with most starting trading around 8 am and some staying open till 8 in the evening. Many of the vendors said that they’re busiest after 5 pm as shoppers drop in on their way home after work. Security is good with guards constantly patrolling and CCTV cameras to monitor the area. There are ablution facilities for both tenants and shoppers making the area much more hygienic than trading on the streets.
Thus Old Mutual has not just invested in bricks and mortar – they’ve addressed the dual issues of providing convenient premises and access to markets for the SME sector as well as providing a safe, convenient and unique shopping experience for the public. Tenants can also be assured that their goods can be safely stored overnight so they don’t have to pack up every evening and then set up their stalls every day. Shops facing directly onto the street have roller shutter doors to lock up at night while the stalls in the main market section have roll down awnings in front which can be locked when their stalls are closed. We spoke to a random selection of tenants in the various sections of the market.
The shops facing onto the street are a sort of combination of conventional shops and open vending stalls. Booties Pharmacy and Aurex Jewellery, for instance, have elected to have conventional glass store frontage. Old Mutual has been flexible enough to allow some tenants to install their own custom made frontage while others have chosen to keep the open set up. Old Mutual have also established an office at the market for their microfinance business known as Old Mutual Finance.
LA LOOK was one of the first shops to set up in the complex. They have elected a half shop, half vending stall set up that they say helps to draw in passing trade from the street. They reported that business was generally good with December of 2019 being particularly busy. Bondex Hardware stocks a wide range of hardware for both homeowners and contractors. They’ve chosen a more open look with no glass frontage and just a sales counter to separate the shop from the street. They reported that their customers had commented on the convenience of a street front shop. Lochi Installation was one of the first businesses to set up here when the market first opened. They specialise in DStv installations, solar, gas and related energy products. Their shop is completely open to the street which they say encourages walk in trade. They have installed their own partition wall at the back to create a small storage area. They have another branch in town but reported that the Eastgate branch is busier. They’re open from 8 am to 7 pm and said that business is good after 5 pm when customers are on their way home after work. Mosha Bridal specialises in bridal attire and event management. They’re open for normal trading hours from 8 am to 5 pm. They’ve chosen to install their own glass and wood frontage with their logo prominently displayed. They’ve also made up a small changing room for customers to try on their outfits, so tenants are free to customise their premises. Their one negative comment was that customers sometimes complain a lack of convenient parking spaces in the area. Carpet City has a very attractive and colourful stall that’s open to the street. Bright colours and shiny décor items make it very tempting for passing trade to look in. They’ve been in their premises for around a year and reported that business is generally good. They’re open from 8.30 am to around 6 pm and also said that they’re busiest after hours.
FIRST FLOOR UNITS These units were designed as residential units for traders coming in to town from outside the city, although some are now used as shops and offices. They have doors and windows opening onto the balcony which runs along Robert Mugabe Road. They have a generous living space, a kitchenette with built-in cupboards and a shower room. Katoya’s Beauty Spa operates from one of the residential units. They reported that security is good but the upstairs section has less passing trade, so most of her customers are regulars or come from her own advertising. They said that some people are not aware of the fact that there are shops and offices on the first floor. They’ve installed their own curtains and rails to demarcate the massage bed for privacy. They’re open from 9 am to 5 or 6 pm. Other tenants on the first floor include an optician, a photographic studio and DHL offices while some of the units appear to have more permanent residents.
STALLS IN THE MAIN OPEN MARKET SPACE The first tenant we spoke to in the main market area is so new that they don’t even have a company name yet! They’ve only been trading at the market for around two weeks and specialise in baby food and other baby products. The stall holder reported that it’s her first formal business venture as she used to just sell from home. Old Mutual supplied the shelving and display units for her, and they also supply glass counters for every stall. She reported that business was fairly good with lots of passing trade and that she’d already made friends with a few of the other stall holders, so it seems the market encourages a kind of community spirit among the tenants.
Africa Nation and Skipper Tees have had their stall for around three months and reported that business is good. They have a separate factory manufacturing and screen printing tee-shirts mostly for corporate orders, so this provides an opportunity for access to a bigger general market. Old Mutual supplied their counter and shelving units and they’ve customized their stall with striking black cladding on one wall. They’re open from 9 am to 8 pm Monday to Saturday and intend to open on Sunday mornings in the future. They also commented on the community spirit among the stallholders and said there’s even a WhatsApp group for the tenants.
Wonpick Apparel and General Dealers have a corner stall selling ladies, gents and children’s clothing and accessories. They’ve been in their stall since November 2019 so they’re still fairly new, but said that business was growing. Old Mutual supplied their display boards and shelving with lockable drawers for storage. The stall holder reported that she was happy with the security and was particularly re-assured by knowing that area is covered by CCTV security. Betolex Electronics said that they’d been there from the very beginning and that they found sales were gradually improving. They’ve put their own strip lights into the display counter supplied by Old Mutual and they’ve installed prominent branding and logos to give their stall a unique identity. They have another branch in the city along Nelson Mandela Avenue and said that sales at both outlets are roughly the same.
They do pack up their laptops in the evening, even when their security awning is down, just as an extra precaution. Although security is generally very good they’re the only stall holder we spoke to who reported that they’d had a cell phone stolen. They’re open from 8 am to 6 pm seven days a week. Alima Online Shop 18 specialises in exclusive ladies ware. As the name suggests they were previously only trading online so this is their first retail outlet. They’ve had their stall since the beginning of December 2019 and reported that business is steadily improving. They’re open from 8 am to 7 pm from Monday to Saturday and also said that business is good after 5 pm. The tenant reported that security is good and they are happy to have secure parking for their car during the day.
FOOD OUTLETS Although there are 6 kitchens for food outlets Kapoto are the first restaurant operating here so far. They specialise in traditional foods and although they’ve only been operating for three weeks they’ve reported that business is improving daily. They were certainly busy when we visited. They’re open for lunch from around 11.30 am and remain open until 8 pm. They provide convenience for shoppers and office workers to have a meal during the day and for people to have dinner after work. They also have plans to extend their business to open a separate tea and coffee shop.
FRESH FOOD AND VEGETABLES. Although it hasn’t reached full occupancy yet the fresh food and vegetable section is getting progressively busier. We spoke to one stall holder who’s only been there for about 10 days, so the stall doesn’t even have a trading name yet. The stall holder sells lots of dried foods like beans and nuts as well as traditional foods and fresh fruit and vegetables. She reported that having access to the cold rooms was very convenient, especially for storing perishable food overnight. Shaded Garden Projects has been trading here for about a month. The proprietor is a trained agronomist and previously had a restaurant in Kariba so he’s knowledgeable about most aspects of fresh foods. They grow a limited amount of the fresh produce on sale and also outsource. The stall holder said sales had been encouraging and were continuing to improve as more people became more aware of the fresh produce section. While most of his customers were walk in trade he’s started establishing a group of regulars. He’s open from Monday to Saturday from 8 am to 7 pm and sometimes on Sunday. Although he’s in competition with the street vendors he likes the convenience of having access to the cold room as well as more hygienic conditions, which he feels gives him a big advantage. He also praised Old Mutual for their promotions which he feels help to boost the market’s popularity – radio programmes, and occasional events at the market with MCs and DJs.
FURNITURE AND HARDWARE SECTION. On the side of the market opposite Robert Mugabe Road, facing on to Robson Manyika, is a section devoted to office furniture, hardware and sanitary ware. Big roller shutter doors open up to the street although the stalls are about a metre above street level on the raised concrete slab. This section is mostly open plan. Teckom Electrical deals in sound systems and other electrical equipment. They’ve been open for around three weeks and reported that business was good. They’re open from 8 am to 8 pm seven days a week. Closer to Wynne Street is an office section and beyond that a section selling tiles, sinks, bathtubs and other sanitary ware.
As the first of its kind in Zimbabwe Eastgate Market was something of an experiment, however it’s been so successful that other cities and towns in the country, and even in the region, have expressed interest in developing similar projects. Old Mutual has always been the leader in property development and this project shows that they are the leaders in finding new and workable solutions tailored to our own unique needs.