Market Renewal: Botswana, Mauritius challenge Zimbabwe
Southern African Development Community member states have thrown the gauntlet at Zimbabwe to revive its manufacturing sector because they yearn for yesteryear quality imports from Harare.In recent days, two members of the SADC regional bloc have spoken of their keenness to see Zimbabwe’s manufacturing sector rebounding to its glory of the past.
Botswana and Mauritius said their markets had gotten used to quality products from Zimbabwe and were hoping Harare’s industry will turn the corner and resume the exports, which have ready markets in their economies.
Zimbabwean Industry and Commerce Minister, Mike Bimha, says Zimbabwe’s industrial sector is likely to rebound by early next year due to a number of measures government had put in place.
The measures, he said, were in line with the government’s five-year economic blueprint, the Zimbabwe Agenda for Sustainable Socio-Economic Transformation (Zim Asset).
Minister Bimha, who was recently speaking to industry and commerce captains from Bulawayo, which used to be the country’s industrial hub before the Western sanctions ruined the economy, said he remained optimistic about the revival of the country’s economy.
“Yes, we might have been talking quite a lot but I would like to assure you that I see most of the work that government is doing now bearing results as we go into the New Year. In some of these discussions and agreements, results do not just come instantly; there is a lot of work to be done but I see a lot of light at the end of the tunnel. I am now optimistic than I was before because of what I see.”
The European Union has since lifted the trade sanctions but officials say it will take time for the move to be felt in the economy.
Botswana ambassador to Zimbabwe, Kenny Kapinga, told news agency, The Source, last month that Zimbabwean exports to his country were low but said this could be improved through revitalisation of the Zimbabwe industry.
He said in the past, Botswana used to import a lot of goods from Zimbabwe and wanted to see the trade between the two countries increasing.
Mauritius says it misses the Zimbabwean beef and butter and rues the fact that it has had to turn to Australian and New Zealand beef and butter imports.
“There are many things we can buy from Zimbabwe, especially wood products which we do not have in Botswana because of poor climate, agricultural produce such as maize, beans and groundnuts,” Kapinga said.
Mauritius has appealed to Zimbabwe to resume its beef and butter exports to the island country which relies mainly from imports, as it does not breed cattle, a trade official has said.
Chairman of the Enterprise Mauritius, Amédée Darga who was leading a 12-member delegation on a two-day buyers-sellers meeting in Zimbabwe which opened on 10 November, said his country was open to trading with Zimbabwe in various sectors.
Enterprise Mauritius is the Indian Ocean island’s main trade promotion agency, jointly run by the government and private sector.
Like Zimbabwe, Mauritius is a member of both the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa.
“There was a time when Mauritians were eating frozen beef and butter from Zimbabwe. We also used to get steel from Ziscosteel. I can only wish that these days come back,” said Darga.
He said there was need for Zimbabwe to build its capacity and resume supplies to Mauritius, which currently imports butter and beef from countries such as Australia and New Zealand.
“There is no reason why we can’t import butter from Zimbabwe, the door is open and there is no reason why we should import beef from Australia and New Zealand and not from your country. We deeply regret that we are no longer able to get these products from Zimbabwe. We hope that in the near future we can see Zimbabwe products in Mauritius.”
Zimbabwe suspended beef exports to the European Union and other countries in 2001 when the Cold Storage Company, at one time the largest meat processor in Africa, collapsed due to mismanagement and persistent outbreaks of foot and mouth disease.
Darga, whose country also imports cotton from Zimbabwe to run its over 200 clothing factories, also welcomed exports of value added goods such as yarn fabric.
Mauritius’ annual exports to Zimbabwe have declined over the years from the peak of US$8 million in the 90s to US$750 000 last year, according to Darga. During the first quarter of this year, he said, his country had exported goods worth US$270 000 to Zimbabwe.
So far the companies attending the trade mission have clinched deals worth US$2.4 million, he said.
Darga said there were many areas that the two countries could cooperate with Mauritius boasting of jewellery making companies, diamond cutting and polishing centres, engineering, cosmetics, chemical and biotechnical products including pesticide-free fertilisers.
Mauritius exports 19 percent of its products to other African countries and is also now producing heart devices, eye cornea and breast implants for women.
While Mauritius readily provided data of its exports to Zimbabwe, Zimtrade chief executive Sithembile Pilime declined to give figures of the country’s trade with the island republic.
However, according to International Trade Centre, a joint trade agency between World Trade Organisation and United Nations, Zimbabwe’s exports to Mauritius plummeted from US$4.8 million in 2011 to US$28 000 last year.
Exports in pearls, precious stones, metals and coins amounted to US$13 000 last year up from US$11 000 in 2012 while works of art, collectors pieces and antiques earned the country US$17 000 in 2012 compared to US$7 000 last year.
Mauritius, with a population just shy of 1.3 million and an economy lauded for being open and efficient, consistently ranks highly on the World Bank’s ease of doing business index. Mauritius was ranked 28 in the 2015 index, out 189 countries, while Zimbabwe comes in at 171.
According to the World Bank, upper middle income Mauritius’ gross national income per capita is US$9 300, while low income Zimbabwe’s per capita GNI is US$820.
Zimtrade’s Pilime said the country would formalise its trade with Mauritius through a memorandum of understanding to be signed next year and called for increased intra-regional trade.
“There is very little trade in the region, there is need to grow inter Africa trade,” she said.
She said intra-regional trade stood at around 12 percent while trade with North America stood at 40 percent and 60 percent with the European Union.
“Zimbabwe needs to look at sectors we are strong in and also look at the niche market in Mauritius which we can supply to,” she said, adding that there was need to improve local products and packaging.
Pilime said the country could export fruits and vegetables, chemicals, arts and crafts which are in demand in Mauritius.
Relations between the two countries span over decades when Mauritius availed 300 teachers to help the country after independence.
According to latest statistics, Zimbabwe imports from Botswana increased to P947 million (US$102m) last year, up from P725 million (US$78m) in 2012.
The figure remains lower than the P2 billion (US$215m) worth of goods Harare imported from its neighbour in 2008 at the height of Zimbabwe’s economic crisis which saw inflation reach 500 billion percent in December 2008 according to International Monetary Fund data and manufacturing production collapsing.
The main items imported from Botswana between 2007 and 2013 were nickel and related items, mineral fuels, oils, bituminous substances and mineral waxes.
Other imports included cement, salt, coal, plastics, electrical supplies, beverages, bricks, household goods, building materials, groceries mainly mealie-meal, clothes and canned meat products.
Last year, this resulted in a trade balance of P725 million (US$78m) from P450 million (US$48.3m) in 2012, in favour of Botswana.
Zimbabwe exported goods worth P221million (US$24m) last year, down from P274 million (US$29.4m) in 2012. Some of the exports included wood and wood articles, wood charcoal, sulphur, earths and stone, plastering material and cement. Other products included pharmaceutical products, cattle feed, window and door frames, metal waste containers, groundnuts and seeds.
“My wish is that this could pick up from the P221 million per year to a much higher level,” said Kapinga.
He said Zimbabwe’s pricing index was too high for an African country, making its products expensive. – Southern Times Writer/The Source