Oliver Kazunga Senior Business Reporter
INDUSTRY and commerce executives in Bulawayo have called on the Government to declare the entire city an industrial Special Economic Zone (SEZ) as opposed to adopting a sectoral approach. Contributing during a pre-budget dialogue symposium organised by The Chronicle yesterday, participants said the focus on leather and textile SEZ was narrow arguing that such a move would not yield the desired revival of Bulawayo industries.
They pointed out that the city had a wider spectrum of industry operations across different sectors, which should benefit from the model through a value chain system. CZI Matabeleland Chapter president Mr Joseph Gunda said while business was pleased that Bulawayo has been declared under the SEZ, they wanted an inclusive model.
“The concept of SEZs was initiated by CZI and we are happy that it has been adopted by the Government. We would want a situation where the entire city can be declared as a SEZ rather than adopting a sectoral approach such as the leather and textile sector. Taking a holistic approach on the SEZ concept will see all other companies in other sectors such as engineering and food processing benefiting,” he said.
As such, industrialists said declaring the city a leather and textile cluster, as initially indicated, would disadvantage other companies from benefiting from the SEZ concept. SEZs are designated geographical regions that operate under special economic regulations that are different from other areas in the same country.
The country has adopted the SEZs concept following lobbying by industry bodies with a view of attracting increased investment on designated areas, which would offer special conditions and incentives to enhance international competitiveness as well as foster industrial growth and development. Bulawayo has companies in sectors such as engineering, food, leather and textile, among others. Despite the challenges facing the economy Mr Gunda said several Bulawayo firms were showing signs of recovery.
“Companies in Bulawayo are slowly crawling back towards revival. Other companies that have shown signs of recovery include Kango Products that has increased its export volumes to 167 percent since last year, Blue Ribbon Foods, Datlabs, Arenel Biscuits and Bakers Inn,” he said.
In the engineering sector, Mr Gunda cited companies such as General Beltings, Botton Armature Winding, and Shepco Group, which has taken over BMA Fasteners. He said through business organisations such as CZI, captains of industry had advocated for the removal of certain goods from the Open General Import Licence to stimulate competitiveness in the local manufacturing sector.