Nduduzo Tshuma Bulawayo Bureau—
Zimbabwe has reduced its import bill by $1 billion since the enactment of Statutory Instrument 64 of 2016, which restricts the importation of locally available products, Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa has said. Officially opening the Zimbabwe International Trade Fair (ZITF) International Business Conference here yesterday, VP Mnangagwa said Government was working on long-term measures to complement SI64 to boost production and accelerate economic recovery.
He said SI64, which removes a range of products from the Open General Import Licence, offers local firms immense opportunities to retool and modernise in order to produce products that the country used to import, thereby saving the much-needed foreign currency.
VP Mnangagwa said the instrument was part of a raft of measures Government came up with to resuscitate industry, especially the manufacturing sector whose performance had been negatively affected by an influx of cheap imports.
“I am happy to note that since the enactment of this Statutory Instrument, the country’s import bill has been coming down with the imports having reduced from a high of $6,3 billion in 2015 to $5,2 billion in 2016, a realisation of some $1,1 billion in import savings,” said VP Mnangagwa.
Citing a 2016 Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries (CZI) Manufacturing Sector Survey report, VP Mnangagwa noted that as a direct result of SI64, the manufacturing sector’s capacity utilisation had risen from 34,3 percent in 2015 to 47,4 percent in 2016.
He said Government expected the trend to continue, while it made efforts to develop more business
supportive strategies that would translate to an increase in the number of people employed in industry.
“It, however, has to be noted that the temporary relief provided to manufacturers by SI 64 of 2016, should allow Zimbabwean companies to establish themselves, grow their domestic market share and gain economies of scale to be able to allow them to effectively compete with other players on the globe,” said VP Mnangagwa.
“In that regard, Government is developing long term, more sustainable measures that are meant to recover the economy, including the development of a policy on local content.”
VP Mnangagwa said the theme for this year’s conference, “Harnessing linkages for Industrial Development” resonated well, “with us as a country, where, in order to attain development, there is need to relook at how our value chains can best bring competitive advantage for us.”
He said Government was working to promote business linkages in various sectors of the economy to stimulate economic recovery.
VP Mnangagwa said the initiative resulted in the development of partnerships like the ARDA-Trek Petroleum, Anchor Yeast and Lasaffre Private Limited to form Lasaffre Zimbabwe Private Limited.
He also cited the recent formation of Beiqi Zimbabwe Private Limited, a joint venture company between Willowvale Motor Industries (WMI), Astol Motors and Beijing Automobile International Corporation (BAIC) of China.
VP Mnangagwa said following the signing into law by President Mugabe of the Special Economic Zones Bill, Judiciary Laws Amendment Bill and the State Procurement Bill, among others, to promote ease of doing business, there had been active marketing of the country as evidenced by the significant investment inquiries.
He said Special Economic Zones were expected to attract joint venture projects between the Multi-National/Global Corporations (MNCs) and local firms, including Small and Medium Enterprises and farmer organisations.
“Through cross-border linkages, these local value chains have a potential to develop into global value chains benefiting the country,” said VP Mnangagwa. “Special Economic Zones will also facilitate innovation and experimentation leading to diffusion of knowledge and technology to the rest of the country.”
VP Mnangagwa said Government was finalising the establishment of a national Competitive Commission (NCC) to improve the country’s competitiveness in the provision of goods and services.
“The development of this Bill followed wide stakeholder consultations, including incorporation of input from the National Economic Consultative Forum,” he said. “The national Competitiveness Commission Bill has already passed through the National Assembly and will now be presented to Senate after which it will be forwarded to the President for assenting into law,” said VP Mnangagwa.
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“This Commission, once established, will be responsible for among other functions, developing, coordinating and ensuring implementation of key policy improvement processes, strategies and initiatives that will enhance the country’s competitiveness.
“Our costs and prices will eventually come down, helping to resuscitate companies, while allowing new ones to be set up. This industrialisation strategy is in line with Government’s economic blue print, Zim-Asset and the AU Agenda 2063, as well as the Sadc Industrialisation Agenda and Roadmap.”