Re-engagement boon for exports

Oliver Kazunga Senior Business Reporter

Zimbabwe’s trade development and promotion organisation, ZimTrade, says the country’s re-engagement agenda coupled with trade initiatives driven by related institutions and stakeholders, has created a promising outlook for the country’s exports this year.

Since coming into power of the Second Republic in November 2017 under President Mnangagwa, the Government has embarked on a re-engagement drive with the global community to thaw relations.

The Government has also adopted transformative policies such as the “Zimbabwe is open for business” mantra with a view to attract trade and investment from across the world to boost exports.

ZimTrade is seeking to grow exports from US$7 billion this year to US$14 billion by 2030 as espoused in the National Development Strategy 1 (NDS 1).  

In its newsletter for January 2023, ZimTrade said this is in sync with the Zimbabwe National Trade Policy and the National Strategy (2019-2023) that seeks to grow exports through market and product diversification that President Mnangagwa has launched.

“This has been paying off as statistics show that exports have seen a 9,2 percent increase from US$5,4 billion in January to November 2021 to US$5,9 billion in the same period in 2022.

“This boost in exports can be attributed to the various efforts made by the Government, along with related agencies like ZimTrade, which are facilitating export development and export promotional activities such as outward missions and trade-fair participation,” said the agency.

These activities, the agency said, have raised the profile of Zimbabwean products and generated interest from markets around the world.

“With the present positive trend in export growth, businesses across Zimbabwe can take advantage and expand their products into traditional and non-traditional markets.

“Already, the need to diversify export markets has seen an acceleration of trade promotion activities to emerging market, such as a series of Business Forums held in 2022 between Zimbabwean companies and potential partners from countries such as United Arab Emirates (UAE), Rwanda, Malawi, and Democratic Republic of Congo,” said ZimTrade.

“Results from these activities show that Zimbabwean companies are benefiting through export growth. For example, exports to UAE increased from US$1,47 billion between January and November 2021 to US$1,96 billion during the same period in 2022.”

With the continued demand for organic and fresh produce in countries like Europe and the Middle East, it is hoped there is a great potential for Zimbabwe to expand their exports, with a high likelihood of surpassing the US$7 billion-dollar mark this year.

Continued interest in the market for Zimbabwean goods, has encouraged further market surveys in the Middle-East. This year, ZimTrade will be conducting a market scan in Saudi Arabia, to explore more export opportunities for local products in the Middle-East.

And with a goal of achieving continued export growth, Zimbabwe will be accelerating activities to foster trade and broaden the availability of its products to different markets like China, Malaysia and Egypt, among others.

For example, China, as a net importer and boasting a sizable population is becoming one of Zimbabwe’s top export destinations, already ranking as the third-largest exporter of Zimbabwean goods.

In 2022, a citrus protocol was signed between the two countries, giving local companies access to export citrus to China, one of the biggest consumers of citrus products.

This year, Zimbabwe is taking advantage of this relationship and working to maximise this opening and capitalise on mutually beneficial trade opportunities.

“Given the level of re-engagement drive that the Government has embarked on under President Mnangagwa’s leadership, it is unanimous that this positive growth trajectory in exports will continue in the foreseeable future.

“The Government and its agencies like ZimTrade, have been pragmatic in their approach to promote trade with the rest of the world,” said an economist Ms Gertrude Machemedze in an interview yesterday.

Meanwhile, in conjunction with partners such as the Zimbabwe Investment and Development Agency, and Zimbabwe Tourism Authority, ZimTrade will be organising a Zimbabwe-China Business Forum which would focus on promoting the country’s trade, tourism, and investment opportunities.

“As Africa is also a viable export destination and with the launch of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), businesses now have easier access to non-traditional markets in the continent that are worth exploring.

“At the recently concluded World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, the AfCFTA secretary general, His Excellence Wamkele Mene, highlighted four key sectors that offer high-potential opportunities: automotive industry, agriculture, and agro-processing, pharmaceuticals, and transportation and logistics.

“This year, the exhibition is promising to be even better as benefits to participating companies will have spin-off benefits to more players back in Zimbabwe, as demand for fruits and vegetables is growing.”

According to the TradeMap, trade of horticultural produce grew from US$251 billion in 2017 to US$298 billion in 2021.

In 2021, Europe accounted for US$123 billion, Asia US$88 billion and United States of America US$44 billion.

“As evidenced above, the European market for fresh produce is enormous and provides a stable consumption base.

“With Zimbabwe’s climatic advantage, this presents a unique opportunity for local businesses to target Europe as the leading destination for horticultural produce.

“International buyers are actively seeking reliable suppliers from around the globe to ensure an uninterrupted supply of horticultural products in the market.”

Presently, European Union (EU) countries are on a drive to develop new business partnerships in Africa to increase total trade and investment between Africa and the EU.

ZimTrade will leverage this drive on the country’s economic diplomacy mantra to diversify and grow exports in the EU by linking producers with importers of different products.

“Local demand for goods and services within these sectors is currently being met through relatively high import costs, making them ideal for businesses to take advantage of by participating in regional value chains.

“As one of the world’s largest free trade areas, the AfCFTA provides a great opportunity for businesses to capitalize on the continent’s growing sectors,” it said.

The agency said this year more initiatives will be channelled towards increasing exports in regions such as eastern and western                                                                                     Africa.

For example, Nigeria is one of the most populous countries in Africa offering massive opportunities for local companies to increase their products in the market.

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