By Nevson Mpofu.
ZIMBABWE-The Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa Business Council held a training and capacity building workshop in Harare recently at a local hotel from the 15th to 17th May. The local sourcing for partnerships project embraced the theme, ‘’Building Small to Medium Enterprises Competitiveness in Regional Markets through Standards’’.
It was held by COMESA Business Council in conjunction with the Zimbabwe Ministry of Industry and Commerce and the Zimbabwe National Chamber Of Commerce. In her opening statement, COMESA Business Council Chief Executive Officer Sandra Uwera said the training is in recognition of the development of the local and Regional markets.
‘’This has been held at a time we are focussing on the growth of Small to Medium Enterprises. Africa’s Economic Transformation lies in the ability to increase value addition and strengthening participation of SMEs in the National and Regional supply chains. This can be achieved through the building of competitive and sustainable Businesses that competes at par with Regional and International counterparts.
Sandra Uwera commented on the gains Zimbabwe has had over the past year. The training Workshop, she added came at a time programmes of Economic Growth Reforms have lured Investors. Zimbabwe introduced the Transitional Stabilisation Programme 2018 to 2020 to ensure financial stabilisation. It has also to stem current liquidity challenges that have seen parallel markets exchange rates skyrocket and contribute to Inflationary pressures.
‘’This is as well a brilliant economic move to attract Foreign Investors in the country and as well in the African Region through Economic co-operation of all Business Partners . The ultimate goal is to improve the balance of Trade to boost Economic growth and Development. Secondly, this stimulates exports and enhance Domestic and International competitiveness of locally produced goods’’, she said.
The Government of Zimbabwe introduced an Export Incentive scheme to improve productivity, competitiveness, local production, and local consumption and market linkages. In his opening statement, Standards Association of Zimbabwe Chief Executive Officer Eve Gadzikwa said there is need for value chain efficiency improvements. Secondly, National Standards must meet Regional ones until they match International Standards of High Quality Production.
‘’Production of goods that do not meet internationally quality standards presents a large constraint to Agricultural Industrialisation in Zimbabwe. There is need to strengthen Agri-Business Linkages along the major Agricultural Commodity value chains.
‘’ There-fore , there is need as well in this respect to support farmer co-operatives. Organisations, then will finally be crucial to improving marketing and value addition. Lastly, I am glad that COMESA has also done similar trainings on Quality and Food Safety Standards in 9 Countries in the COMESA Region’’, she noted.
ZNCC President Tamuka Macheka added that people must buy their locally produced products. He said this is important and crucial because it supports and promotes local producers. He believes in the economic fact that the economy can easily be stimulated if supported by its own people.
‘’This as well leads to job creation in the country. There are opportunities as well for young people especially young Entrepreneurs who need to commercially change their Country’s image in economic growth through co-cooperativeness and Regional Integration.
Buy Zimbabwe President, Munyaradzi Hwengwere supported as well the idea of buying locally from within the country. This, he added is an advantage to the country because it boosts Growth through Gross Domestic Product, create jobs for young people and promotes the country abroad.
‘’The idea is brilliant and sharp since this creates jobs for the youth and young people who as well are Entrepreneurs with vast knowledge in Economic Growth and Development of the country and the Region .
‘’ If we support local producers and manufacturers by buying goods made in the country, each and every citizen would definitely contribute towards creating a bigger demand for home grown products. From a Business perspective, it is important to build consumer confidence by consistently promoting quality and affordable goods’’.
Encouraging local and Regional sourcing in each and every country in the COMESA and SADC Region contributes to the growth of Trade Volumes between Zimbabwe and other Member States. Zimbabwe’s total Trade with COMESA was 330 million US$ , 220 million US$ being Exports and 172 US$ Million as Imports in 2017 .
At continental level, Zimbabwe falls within the group of top-ranking countries in terms of Regional Integration into Regional value chains. It also fits in the Merchandise Trade Complementarity Index of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development [UNCTAD] . This implies specialisation between Zimbabwe and other countries in the Region.
Getting in again in the Interview Circle in her conclusion COMEAS Business Council Director Sandra Uwera noted that the similar training and capacity building was held in 9 countries in the COMESA REGION. She highlights that the Project connects local supplies with the whole Region.
‘’This will develop Regional Integration, creates several jobs and foster economic growth in the Region itself especially with the Regional markets. COMESA carries a large market in the African continent as a whole.
‘[‘It carries a large market of the African continent with a population of more than 520 million consumers. It also has a total trade of US240 billion in 2017.. However Intra-Regional Trade remains low at less than 7%.
Bringing more information to add to the whole conclusion, she notes,
‘’The TFTA Agreement between COMESA, EAC and SADC provides for a greater Market Opportunity. It has an estimate of over 630 million consumers. The Continental Free Trade Area which is the second largest Trade Agreement after World Trade Organisation covers a Market of more than 1,2 billion people. It has a combined Domestic Product [GDP] of more than US$3,4 trillion’’ , she concluded .
The three Day Training was attended by over 100 trainees from Zimbabwe. It has circulated to other countries in the Region holding the similar theme, objective and strong mandate to foster Regional Integration in the COMESA Region. COMESA Business Council is the voice of the Private Sector in the Region building the Region go Global.