Africa Free Trade Area boosts Bulawayo DP Print Media director, Mr Bradley Beale and forewoman Kimberly Zulu operate a state-of-the- art machine at the company factory in Bulawayo yesterday. Picture Eliah Saushoma

Nqobile Bhebhe, [email protected]

BULAWAYO industries continue to expand production capacity buoyed by the improved doing business environment while aggressively angling to exploit domestic and regional markets by leveraging on the regional industrialisation drive and trade opportunities presented by the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).

Through investing in advanced technology for competitive quality production and riding on fiscal incentives extended to the productive sectors, the country’s industries have been investing heavily in retooling, modernising plants, and enhancing capacity for efficiency while widening and retaining jobs.

Yesterday a delegation led by the Ministry of Industry and Commerce conducted a tour of two Bulawayo firms, National Foods and DP Print Media, where it was evident the city’s industry is positively responding to the Government’s call for industrialisation.

The visiting delegation was shown how the adoption of modern technology has improved operational capacity, efficiency, and product quality in the process of developing a solid domestic industrial base in line with the National Development Strategy 1 (NDS1), a critical building block towards the attainment of an upper middle-income economy vision by 2030.

The week-long tour of the city’s industries is part of the build-up towards the 7th Sadc Industrialialisation Week to be hosted by Zimbabwe next month as a precursor to the Sadc Summit in August.

The platform presents immense opportunities to foster collaboration, network with Sadc countries, and secure potential supply contracts in a bid to re-establish Bulawayo as a regional industry leader. 

It will run from July 29 to August 2, shortly before the Sadc Summit scheduled for August in Harare.

National Foods group operations executive for the southern region, Mr Phawulani Ngwenya, said the firm was ready to take on the regional markets, having invested millions in production facilities to enhance capacity and efficiency.

Recent projects by the company include a large-scale pasta line and plans for a new biscuit line for specialised products like creams, alongside efforts to boost stock feed manufacturing capacity.

“As National Foods we are very confident of competing within the region and specifically with the Sadc Summit happening in Zimbabwe, we would like to showcase that ability to regional leaders,” said Mr Ngwenya.

“As our President (Mnangagwa) will be appointed as Sadc chairman, we want to assure the Sadc community that Zimbabwe as the Second Republic is going through an industrial revolution. What has been installed (at National Foods) is world standard.

“We bought the new plant from Switzerland, its top-end technology. As National Foods we want to assure other nations that do import from South Africa that Zimbabwe can compete in that space and we can export to South Africa as well,” he added.

“The fact that our Gloria brand has been so dominant in Zimbabwe, we believe we have the potential to take the brand to Zambia, South Africa, Malawi and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.”

National Foods has invested US$6,5 million in the automated mill in Bulawayo, which guarantees better constituency in quality. As a result, production capacity has increased from 240 to 300 tonnes per day. 

The old mill, which was second-hand from the United Kingdom in the 1950s was inconsistent due to frequent breakdowns and capacity utilisation was 70 percent.

Mr Ngwenya said opportunities presented by AfCFTA dovetail with the firm’s expansion plans.

“We would not want to think there are any barricades because if you look at AfCFTA, it is giving us an opportunity to expand our route market,” he said. 

“We were not consistent in terms of quality but what we have done is we have gone through a lot of quality changes through automation of the plant.

“We now have good, strong quality and any barrier would be how ambitious we are, but as National Foods we are very ambitious.” 

The AfCFTA deal seeks to create a single continental market, with a population of about 1,3 billion people and a combined Gross Domestic Product of approximately US$3,4 trillion.

It is one of the flagship projects of African Union Agenda 2063: The Africa We Want, the long-term development strategy for transforming the continent into a global powerhouse.

DP Print Media director, Mr Bradley Beale said their company, which is renowned for large-scale commercial printing services has invested in excess of US$2 million in retooling in the past nine years. 

The investment is yielding dividends as it has an extensive footprint in the country and has capacitated the company to penetrate the regional market.

He said the new plant has high production speed, which enables them to compete with regional counterparts.

“In the last nine years, we have recapitilised the entire book printing plant to the tune of US$2 000 000 to modernise our operations.

“Retooling our equipment was imperative to trying to stay competitive in the region,” said Mr Beale.

“The specific areas we have retooled are the printing presses and binding equipment as well as the pre-press (design) equipment as well as the digital side for short run work.”

Mr Beale noted that the re-industrialisation of Bulawayo’s printing sector has vast potential to contribute to the overall development of the city, the country and the region.

“It will create employment and uplift the education sector by having locally made quality books available to the schools, helping provide Zimbabweans with a quality education,” he said. 

“Collaboration and networking with Sadc countries for potential supply contracts will help re-establish Bulawayo as a regional leader.

“It will offer opportunities to suppliers in allied industries supplying the printing sector with raw materials. It will increase export opportunities and foreign currency generation.”

In the context of Sadc Industrialisation Week, Mr Beale said the company’s recapitalisation and retooling efforts contribute to a more robust regional publishing industry.

“Our recapitalisation and retooling efforts increase Sadc book printing capacity in the region. We are planning to attend the relevant programmes relating to our industry,” he said.

“The Sadc Industrialisation Week gives us an amazing platform to showcase what we have as Bulawayo. Our hopes would be to find new markets and clientele to grow our business volumes and access to new technologies that we can implement into our production facility.”

Mr Beale said that the new plant can produce 1,5 million books per year. In terms of market share, Bulawayo has 20 percent and the rest is spread across the country.

It exports to Botswana, Zambia and occasionally to South Africa and the Democratic Republic of the Congo and has 57 workers.




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