Oliver Kazunga Senior Business Reporter
ZIMBABWE has potential to contribute US$4,1 billion annually to the total value of trade within the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa) through exports into the regional trade block if a host of bottlenecks facing the region are addressed.
Already, Zimbabwe is among the seven Comesa member States accounting for 83,9 percent of the total trade within the trade bloc.
In a latest report, Comesa, which comprises 21 member States that include Rwanda, Burundi, Djibouti, and Eswatini said: “Seven member states account for about 83,9 percent of the total intra-Comesa trade. Egypt has the highest trade potential, which could increase intra-Comesa trade by US$26,3 billion followed by Libya, US$16,6 billion, Tunisia US$15,7 billion and Zimbabwe US$4,1 billion.”
In 2018, Zimbabwe imported and exported goods from and to the rest of Africa to the value of US$3,1 billion and US$2.6 billion, respectively, signifying the huge potential the country possesses to grow the value of its trade with Comesa.
The Democratic Republic of Congo has the potential to contribute US$12,2 billion, Zambia US$5,8 billion and Kenya US$4,2 billion, the report says.
Comesa said 11 of Zimbabwe’s export products with the highest trade potential included tar distilled from coal, fruits of the genus capsicum, avocados, glass products, and tungsten ores and concentrates.
Zimbabwe’s trade development and promotion agency, ZimTrade, expects the country’s total exports this year will breach the 10 percent yearly growth target enunciated in the National Export Strategy on the back of the country’s successful participation at the Expo 2020 Dubai.
The expo, which began in October last year ended on March 31, 2022 and Zimbabwe alongside 191 countries, participated at the multi-sectoral fair.
The Second Republic has, among others, prioritised the growth and development of an export-led economy as Zimbabwe moves towards attaining an upper middle income society by 2030.
Last year, Zimbabwe’s exports grew by 37,3 percent.
The regional trading bloc said the major constraints hindering exploitation of the identified potential is weak productive capacities in member States.
Comesa’s average overall productive capacities index for the period between 2010 and 2018 was below average at 24,8.
“Whereas Comesa performs well in private sector and natural capital productive capacities, it lags behind in information communication technology, transport, structural change, energy, institutions and human capital.”
The other constraints include poor infrastructure connectivity within the region, high freight and transport costs, mainly due to inadequate export cargo to ensure sufficient return cargo for the vessels and high bank charges.
“Some of these obstacles could be overcome through enhancing productive capacities in transport, energy, ICT, human capital, structural change and institutions, utilising regional integration support facilities such as Comesa Aid for Trade, which aims to support and strengthen the implementation of the regional integration policies and programmes by enhancing coordination and effectiveness within and among regional and national institutions; supporting identification and elimination of outstanding regional and national structural and capacity constraints that continually undermine the region’s ability to gain from trade liberalisation opportunities.”
Comesa said intra-regional exports could also be enhanced through strengthening market information on availability of quality products within the region as well as establishing tailor-made production lines for products that are demanded by other member States.
Meanwhile, Comesa secretariat participated at the just ended 62nd Zimbabwe International Trade Fair (ZITF) as part of the bloc’s outreach to raise public and stakeholder awareness on regional integration programmes and encourage them to take advantage of the opportunities that the region provides.
The gesture was also part of the demonstration of the Comesa programmes in member States as provided for in the Comesa Communication Strategy.
“This trade fair presents an opportunity to showcase Comesa as an organisation, its programmes, its institutions, and to address any information gaps that might be existing,” trade expert at Comesa secretariat, Ms Netta Gichuki who was in the ZITF expo team was quoted as saying.