Prosper Ndlovu, Business Editor
BULAWAYO companies are under the spotlight as businesses in Zimbabwe and Botswana are set to benefit from a virtual trade mission that will enhance trade relations between the two countries.
Botswana is one of Zimbabwe’s traditional trading partners and local companies, especially in Bulawayo, can take advantage of the proximity between the two countries to land products in the neighbouring country at competitive prices. Francistown, which is closer to Zimbabwe than the capital Gaborone can be used as an entry point into the market.
Zimbabwe’s trade with Botswana has in the past three years shown steady growth with Zimbabwe’ exports moving from US$19,2 million in 2017 to US$43,3 million in 2019. Considering the risks posed by coronavirus on physical meetings, the virtual trade mission, scheduled for 20-21 August, is intended to ensure an increase in Zimbabwe/Botswana trade, leveraging on areas of advantage and strengths in the two economies.
The event is being organised by ZimTrade in partnership with the Botswana Investment and Trade Centre (BITC). ZimTrade chief executive officer, Mr Allan Majuru, said the new norm means companies that want to remain relevant in export market should embrace technologies, which will guarantee continued engagements with international buyers.
“The prevailing environment in which we find ourselves operating in demands that businesses embrace the use of the internet in doing business. Whereas the norm has been to travel to different countries showcasing products and services at trade fairs and on trade missions, this time companies have to do so through digital platforms,” he said.
According to ZimTrade, one of the objectives of the virtual mission is to improve network between companies in the two countries.
A match-making platform has been created where companies register to set up meetings with possible business partners in areas of interest. Registration of companies is still ongoing but Zimtrade said the list of Botswana companies is drawn from sectors such as fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG), agricultural inputs and implements and the services sector. Expectations are that companies in other sectors will also register in the coming days while registration for Zimbabwean companies is still in progress.
A contributing factor to growing bilateral relations is the increased effort in nurturing trade between the two countries and continued activities by ZimTrade to identify areas of opportunities for local companies. A market survey conducted by ZimTrade in Botswana in 2019 revealed potential for local businesses to supply an array of products and services to Botswana.
These export opportunities are in sectors such as processed foods and fresh produce sectors, agricultural implements and inputs, building material and mining supplies.
For example, Zimbabwean companies have potential to export mainly processed foods such as pork products, tinned foods, cereals, milk and milk-based products, cordials, biscuits, and sweets.
Botswana is also a net importer of fresh produces that local exporters have capacity to supply. Produce such as vegetables, bananas, apples, oranges and pepper can perform well in the Botswana market and local exporters can earn more if they value add their commodities. South African companies may offer competition to Zimbabwean companies but the neighbouring country’s retail sector is a big market that can service companies from both countries.
Local exporters can also leverage on Zimbabwe’s global reputation of quality products as some of the country’s products are already household brands in Botswana. Batswana enjoy Zimbabwean products and as such it is not a big challenge to establish a market there.
Local products were a big attraction at the Botswana Global Expo held last year indicating that there is a potential for a hug market for Zimbabwean products.