In line with the national thrust to develop and promote exports of diversified commodities, I have recently embarked on a series of visits to exporting companies: firstly, in order to assess the efforts being made to grow exports and, secondly, so as to better appreciate the multiple challenges they face in that regard.
The visits have been arranged in close coordination between my Ministry (of Foreign Affairs and International Trade) and ZimTrade — the national trade promotion agency which now falls under the administrative remit of my ministry.
My first visit this year — on June 5 — was to Tanganda Tea Estates in Chipinge, Manicaland.
The visit was designed to get an understanding of the agro-based export business focusing on tea, coffee, avocados and macadamia nuts — all of which Tanganda is currently exporting to a variety of foreign markets, including Europe, Asia and South Africa.
My second visit, some two weeks later, was to the Workington area of Harare itself, where I toured Trade Kings, a major manufacturer of detergents and household cleaning products.
Through hard work, targeted investment and innovative marketing strategies, the company has transformed itself from being a distributor of products imported from its Zambian mother-company and elsewhere into a significant exporter of locally-manufactured products into the SADC Region — including into Zambia.
In early July, I visited Maka Resources in Ruwa, just outside Harare.
Maka is a wholly-owned Zimbabwean company manufacturing irrigation equipment and grain-dryers destined for both the domestic and external markets.
My most recent familiarisation visit took me to Kariba, Mashonaland West, where I was able to tour and gain a first-hand appreciation of the admirable efforts being made by both Lake Harvest and Padenga Holdings to increase their respective levels of production and to both expand and diversify their already significant export markets.
Lake Harvest — Zimbabwe’s largest fish-producer — is renowned within the region and beyond for its service reliability and the consistent quality of its fish products. The company is actively seeking new markets within the continent, within the Gulf and as far afield as China.
ZimTrade and the International Trade division of my Ministry are currently working with management in those endeavours.
Padenga Holdings, a consistent prize-winner for its export performance, is a diversified business, which produces premium quality crocodile skins for export to many of Europe’s brand-name fashion houses specialising in exotic leather products for an elite global clientele.
The company also exports significant quantities of crocodile meat to niche markets in both Europe and Asia, where demand is increasing with each passing year.
Further visits are planned later in the year when, hopefully, the Covid-19 pandemic will have passed and the current restrictions on movement will have been eased.
The promotion and facilitation of exports is a key function of my Ministry, not only as a major pillar of our overall “economic diplomacy” thrust in pursuit of Vision 2030, but, in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic, as a vital cog within our national effort to stabilise our currency and the broader economy, to boost production across the board and to create meaningful employment for our people.
Covid-19 has certainly confronted the nation, our economy and our exporting companies with major challenges, but the pro-active and innovative amongst those exporters have also been able to explore and identify new market openings and opportunities as foreign importers seek to diversify their various supply-bases.
I am aware of some companies which, traditionally, have produced only for the local market, but which are now actively investigating their own potential for export: primarily as a means of generating the foreign currency they need to acquire raw materials for their own production lines.
As the Minister responsible for International Trade, I welcome these developments and warmly commend our ever-innovative business community for this kind of initiative.
Again, this is in line with Vision 2030 and dovetails neatly with the ambitious, but achievable objectives of the recently launched National Trade Policy and the associated “7/14” National Export Strategy.
The “7/14” target refers to our determination to boost export earnings to US$7 billion by 2023, and to US$14 billion by 2030.
This will entail increasing national export earnings of goods and services by a minimum of 10 percent annually whilst also improving our balance of payments position by way of enhanced import-substitution.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, along with ZimTrade, is placed at the very core of the national thrust to attain those objectives.
Our task — indeed our commitment — is, wherever possible, to work with every company in every sector of the economy to help them play their part in contributing towards the attainment of these agreed export targets.
Given the current forex shortages, exacerbated by the socio-economic impact of Covid-19, our productive sectors need to be dynamic, aggressive and, wherever possible, to develop a culture of producing for export.
Again, where possible, companies should seek to be self-reliant in terms of their forex requirements so as to affordably sustain their operations and ease pressure on the Reserve Bank.
In order to build the requisite in-house capacity and expertise, the Ministry is currently training and re-training all officials in effective commercial diplomacy so that they are better equipped to facilitate all aspects of business development, the intricacies of trade and investment promotion and to more effectively participate in the global, multilateral trading system.
This includes intensive exposure to and training on the vast preferential market-access opportunities arising from Zimbabwe’s membership of SADC, COMESA, the Tri-Partite Free Trade Area (SADC, COMESA and the East African Community) and, of course, the African Continental Free Trade Area.
Formal trade arrangements between Zimbabwe and the European Union and between Zimbabwe and the United Kingdom also offer extensive duty-free and quota-free market-access opportunities for our exporters.
As we equip our diplomats with these new skills and trade/investment-related performance targets, those deployed in a number of identified strategic countries or regions are being tasked to actively work towards significantly enhanced economic engagement and cooperation therewith: to identify potential export market opportunities for our companies, to identify sources of critical import and technology requirements and to identify and engage potential investors.
It is a process, of course, but we are already beginning to see some positive results.
In addition, working closely with ZimTrade and our Embassies, my Ministry must be able to provide accurate market briefs and analysis for any and all local industries seeking to open new export markets or to expand or diversify existing markets.
Industry, of course, is expected to constantly engage with Ministry and ZimTrade with regard to its expectations and challenges.
The various company visits I have made and my increasing direct engagement with Industry — most specifically with exporters — are part and parcel of my Ministry’s strategy aimed at building a much stronger and more effective synergy between the Ministry and our exporting companies.
As such, my Ministry is at the full disposal of companies in order to facilitate trade and/or to attend to any issues affecting the ease of doing export business.
Exports are key to sustaining the economic recovery efforts. Together we will make our country prosperous again!–hrald.cl.zw