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The Rise of Small Business Hubs in the Northern Suburbs

Globally, it is known that urban economies make the most contribution to national employment and prosperity. Over the years Zimbabwe has seen an expansion regarding the emergence and growth of the informal sector, specifically in Central Business Districts (CBD). This has since made the CBD too small to accommodate all businesses hence the sprouting of small business hubs in the Northern suburbs.

Informality has become a way of earning a living for most people in Zimbabwe. Harare has a long enduring history with informal business or years now. First, it was the significant economic suffering to the retrenchments and job losses. It also got to the closure of some big corporates and some international businesses pulling out. Having so many people out of jobs spiked the decline of the formal economy. As a way of coping with the emerging job struggles many ventured into several livelihood activities including hawking, vending, and other small to medium-sized informal businesses within Zimbabwean cities and towns. With this form of entrepreneurship that has been going on for years, some of the businesses have grown and need better premises to operate from. Already the CBD has grown so informal with most buildings turned into small shops or just mere stores, thus the emergence of many small business hubs in the Northern suburbs.

Admittedly, the CBD has no more room for more business premises and the Northern suburbs are the best option as the yards are big and can accommodate extra buildings in one yard making it easy to form these business hubs. The catch is also on the property owners who are developing their previous homes to become business hubs and renting them out.

Although Zimbabwe witnessed the mushrooming of informal structures including vending stalls, tuck-shops, backyard small business complexes, and houses in the past, now the informal sectors are moving towards legal and better premises for their businesses thereby targeting the Northern suburbs. New business hubs such as the Portal Village and BizHub in Highlands and the Fairbairn Emporium in Mt Pleasant all house over 5 businesses in the same premises. This arrangement also helps financially as some of the expenses are shared among the tenants.

We define business hubs as the provision of workspaces or mini stores to multiple tenant businesses, with additional services such as shared resources such as internet, bathrooms, and co-working spaces. Having 5 or more businesses sharing the same premises is quite strategic in making it appealing to clients who might have to travel a distance to get a service from one business hub. If the hub has any other businesses offering different services it makes it easy to get clients who enjoy having a one-stop place to buy all their necessities.

Northern suburbs are the prime spots for businesses in Zimbabwe hence expensive and can be difficult to source. Yet to attract clients companies need their offices to be in neighbourhoods that are centrally located with other businesses, transportation, shops, and restaurants. On top of that, good business needs the premises themselves to be bright, clean, and modern.

Business hubs offer a way into more expensive and in-demand spaces in prime locations that may have been prohibitive if you were renting the space yourself. Business hubs also offer a business the luxury of quickly opening an office without incurring much cost as most of the essentials are readily availed to by the owner of the premises.

Recent studies have also suggested that people are more productive and creative when working closely with other businesses. With preferred amenities, all contributing to the success the business can have, business hubs also allow a business to get clients from other businesses within the same premises. The best advantage has to be the lower cost in starting up and running expenses making it easier for start-up companies as well. The business hub also has the advantage of a network of professionals in similar or complimentary industries, allowing people to collaborate on projects, network together, and even find business prospects.

Text by – Tanyaradzwa Marabada

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