Several banks are leaving Harare’s central business district (CBD) which is becoming increasingly informalised.
They are establishing their headquarters in the affluent suburb of Borrowdale, escaping overcrowding and traffic congestion, The Independent reported citing reports by property experts. The publication quotes a Harare-based real estate professional Kura Chihota as saying:
"The Harare CBD is in transition from all in one financial, political and commercial centre to a city premised on increasingly informalised retail and a transport hub.
The city council relaxed zoning requirements and allowed commercial uses in neighbouring suburbs of Milton Park, Alexander Park, Eastlea and Belgravia to name some. Smaller corporates and individuals chose to buy and convert existing houses to commercial uses.
The stand sizes are somewhat restrictive and users of larger space needed to look elsewhere."
Chihota highlights that tenants in Harare’s CBD have taken on the responsibility of water, power, and refuse removal due to the municipality’s struggle to provide these services. The CBD is experiencing congestion exacerbated by the influx of affordable ex-Japanese vehicles used for public transport.
Chihota’s report, titled “Banking on Borrowdale – A commentary,” mentions banks like Stanbic Bank Zimbabwe, NMB, First Capital, and Ecobank considering relocation or already having moved. Stanbic is constructing a 7,600 sqm headquarters near the Borrowdale Race Course, enabling them to leave the CBD. NMB’s head office sits on a 3,700 sqm property along Borrowdale Road. He said:
"A stalwart of First Street in the Harare CBD, the original Barclays Bank will develop a new suite of offices as First Capital Bank. The site acquired is larger than immediate requirements and the balance of the land remains an investment option for future expansion and or development.
Ecobank, currently occupying units in the office park adjacent to Sam Levy Village, will move across the road to a development underway, literally across the road, on the corner of Piers and Borrowdale Lane."
Due to low traffic in suburban areas, banks are targeting a new clientele and relocating from the CBD. Property expert Washington Musiiwa noted that Stanbic has established a presence in Belgravia, and AFC Holdings recently opened in Westgate. Additionally, two other banks are actively seeking properties south of Samora Machel Avenue. Musiiwa added:
"This shift reflects banks’ desire to follow their customers and tap into emerging investment opportunities outside the city center. Borrowdale is quite the ideal place."
According to Musiiwa, banks are choosing to move from the CBD for various reasons, which are often revealed when they search for new properties. The CBD has lost its appeal due to overcrowding and lack of parking space, making it generally unfavourable for banks and their customers.