Lungelo Ndhlovu Business Correspondent
THE European Union (EU) is planning to open a business information centre in Bulawayo in April this year to facilitate business and trade linkages between local firms and the lucrative EU market.The project manager for the EU delegation to Zimbabwe, Martin Zhou told Business Chronicle the establishment of a business information centre was part of €3 million funded programme meant to enhance Zim-EU partnerships.
“The objective is to contribute to building a diversified private sector that plays a key role in the national economic recovery and poverty reduction in Zimbabwe,” he said.
“The programme also aims at enhancing the capacity of the private sector to take advantage and benefit from the Interim Economic Partnership agreement signed between the Zimbabwe and the EU, which gives entirely quota and tariff free access to the European market for products originating from Zimbabwe.”
Zhou noted that the setting up of the information centre would facilitate increased business opportunities for Bulawayo entrepreneurs under the Trade and Private sector Development Programme (TPSDP).
“The Zimbabwe–EU Business Information Centre (ZIM–EBIC) to be set up in Bulawayo is a component of a wider trade and private sector development support programme being funded by the EU under the Trade and Private sector Development Programme.
“This follows the successful launch of a similar facility in Harare, which is housed at the ZimTrade offices,” he added.
The centre in Harare was launched last year by the Minister of Industry and Commerce Mike Bimha and the then head of the EU delegation in Zimbabwe Aldo Dell Ariccia.
“The regional office would serve as a satellite office providing the same services offered to industry in Harare, thus the centre is one of the product offerings to the Matabeleland and Midlands regions.
“The ZimTrade website will be upgraded to create a platform capable of hosting a number of trade information tools such as the online EU Export Help Desk, Trade Information Centre and the Zim-EBIC itself,” said Zhou.
He said the EU delegation was in the process of conducting activities aimed at improving accessibility of Zim-EBIC to include further training of ZimTrade staff, carrying out awareness campaigns targeted at SMEs and other private sector beneficiaries.
“So far no challenges have been experienced in the setting up or operation of Zim-EBIC. However, ZimTrade in conjunction with the International Trade Centre is working on improving accessibility of the facility.
“The works involve upgrading the ZimTrade website and providing an external access web link to the Zim-EBIC so that users can interact with the facility without having to physically visit ZimTrade offices,” Zhou said.
Last week Zimbabwe and the EU signed a National Indicative Programme (NIP), which will see the block providing development assistance valued at $270 million. The EU is Zimbabwe’s second largest trading partner after South Africa.