Thupeyo Muleya Beitbridge Bureau
Women Affairs, Gender and Community Development Minister Nyasha Chikwinya has urged Zimbabwe and South Africa to review Customs regulations which she said hindered the growth of businesswomen in both countries. In an interview at the just-ended Zimbabwe-South Africa Women’s Trade Expo in Musina, South Africa, at the weekend, Cde Chikwinya said women found it hard to export products or import raw materials from either country due to high duties.
“As women, we are ready to do business and contribute to national economic development, but we have challenges with high duty rates levied on some of the products and raw materials,” she said. “We have a lot of women in small-to-medium businesses and most of these would like to export or import products, but they end up giving up because of the trade restrictions between our borders,” she said.
“We need to adopt a deliberate policy to emancipate women in terms of trade. It is important for the Government to review tariffs and import or export regulations for small businesses.”
Cde Chikwinya said it was also important for the two governments to expedite the creation of SMEs and women’s development banks to ease operational and capital challenges affecting women in business. She said small businesses were ready to pay duty and other levies at reasonable rates hence the need to address trade barriers as a matter of urgency.
“The current tariff regime of most of the products will push most women out of business. “If these tariffs and regulations are well-structured within the reach of many, our Government can collect up to $5 million per day from exports or imports,” said Cde Chikwinya.
She said it was also important for Government to review operations at the Beitbridge Border Post where people are delayed. She said there was need to create more institutions that looked at the plight of women, especially those engaged in self-help projects. Cde Chikwinya said the trade expo was attended by 280 women from Zimbabwe and 500 from South Africa at the instigation of President Mugabe, the current African Union chair and Dr Nkosazana Dhlamini-Zuma who is the AU Commission chairperson.
Products on display at the expo included curios, food, pottery, agro-products, home decor, bead work, among others.