From Sydney Kawadza in Cairo, Egypt
Zimbabwean companies exhibiting at the Intra African Trade Fair in Cairo, Egypt have set themselves a target to pen deals worth around US$5 million during the seven-day exhibition.
The Zimbabwean delegation is led by Industry and Commerce Minister Nqobizitha Mangaliso Ndlovu and includes Special Adviser to the Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, Ambassador Stuart Comberbach.
The Office of the President and Cabinet and the Ministry of Environment, Tourism and Hospitality Industry is also represented while officials from ZimTrade, Zimbabwe Tourism Authority, Zimbabwe Special Economic Zones Authority and Zimbabwe Investment and Development Agency are part of the delegation.
Business Support Organisations are represented by the Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries and the Zimbabwe Agricultural Show Society.
Exhibitors include the Zimbabwe National Chamber of Commerce, Chamber of Mines, Zimbabwe International Trade Fair, CBZ Holdings, Tobacco Research Board, ZFC Ltd, Sable Chemicals Industry and Boltgas International (PVT) Ltd.
Speaking to The Herald, ZimTrade chief executive Mr Allan Majuru said the delegation was marketing Zimbabwe as preferred investment destination.
“We have officials from tourism, the financial services sector such as the CBZ Holdings and even law companies and these people are here to assure investors that Zimbabwe is ready for investment and the IATF 2018 is a good marketing platform for us Zimbabweans.
“The private sector is also saying we are here and we are doing business, come and we do business. Coming to the trade I think for us judging from experience I think what has happened so far is a noble event and it is quite big.
“In terms of trade I think US$2 million to US$4 – 5 million worth of deals can be achieved here but this is a modest target because when you do follow ups six to 12 months later the amount could be bigger running up to US$20 million.”
Zimbabweans companies at the IATF 2018 are showcasing products in the leather and leather goods sector, clothing and textiles, processed foods, tobacco, art and crafts and services sector including companies offering legal, financial and ICT services among others.
“All these goods and products we are quite sure that they will take us forward and also we have got tobacco which is a fast growing industry.
“If you can see our trade with Egypt, the big component of the trade is coming from the exports of tobacco but what we want to see going forward is the export of the manufactured and not the unmanufactured tobacco because tobacco is the key item we are really exporting to Egypt from Zimbabwe,” he said.
Mr Majuru, however, said more needs to be done to promote trade within the Southern African region and the continent at large.
He said emphasized the need for SADC countries to improve infrastructure such as road, railway and other transport networks to boost trade among the countries.
“If you look at the statistics among all continents – Europe, Asia, Africa and the Americas – intra-continental trade is lowest in Africa.
“Of course there might be opportunities but infrastructure is quite expensive for me to do business in, say Angola, than it is in America.
“It does not make sense but when you look at it now, you cannot have goods going to America taking the same time as goods going to fellow countries in the region.”
A Zimbabwean exhibitor, Ms Amanda Lieto from Wanachi, a group of companies that are into agro-processing and manufacturing, said Zimbabwean companies have an opportunity to market their products and service as the trade fair.
“We have had an opportunity meet a lot of businesspeople and expect to create a market for our products and also to make sure we learn on the standards that can make our products compete internationally and within the continent.
“I have also met officials from different institutions even the Afrixem Bank and there are a lot of opportunities out there and potential funding that probably young entrepreneurs from Zimbabwe like me can be able to access.
“It is just a matter of being strategically positioned and being ready to accept investors so that we access the funds that are available.”
She said Zimbabwean companies could engage financial institutions to support their businesses while merging financial support from different institutions to push the businesses.
“From this experience I have also seen that a lot of countries are interested in getting our products and services and it’s just a matter of us being accessible and available to market our products and services.
“One of the major issues I have been grappling with is to see how we can enhance intra-African trade, destroying the barriers we have, such as cost of transportation to sell my products.
“Those are the impediments that we probably need to work on closely and see how we can take them down and make trade more affordable and cost effective.”
Ms Lieto also called for co-operation among regional bodies such as SADC to work on reducing trade barriers especially for young entrepreneurs.
More than 1 000 exhibitors and over 70,000 visitors are expected to attend while other countries expected to put on a strong showing including Nigeria, South Africa, Sudan, Cote d’Ivoire, Kenya, Ghana and numerous other signatories to the African Continental Free Trade Agreement.
The IATF 2018, is running under the theme, “Transforming Africa” which in line with the objective of AfCFTA. It aims at increasing intra-African trade on the Internet, B2B, also known as e-biz, the exchange of products, services or information (e-commerce) between businesses, rather than between businesses and consumers.