INVESTING towards improved competitiveness is imperative for local businesses if they are to make positive investment and export gains under the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), a distinguished industry expert has said.
Zimbabwe is among the leading regional states to become signatories to the historic trade agreement which came into force in January last year.
The AfCFTA inaugurates the “beginning of a new era” in Africa and is expected to go a long way in buttressing the economic integration of the continent, experts say.
Under the agreement Africa expects the AfCFTA implementation to increase mobility of the continent’s people, goods and services with attendant necessities for institutions to harmonize and integrate much of its operational systems, regulations and mechanisms.
Estimates indicate the AfCFTA could boost the continental economy from about US$3 trillion (2020) to about US$8 trillion by 2030.
In view of the anticipated wider trade and investment opportunities, Zimbabwe will have to build more on its competitiveness and comparative advantage to ensure maximum benefit from the AfCFTA, says Dr Nkem Khumbah, chairman of the Africa Development Futures Group, and senior fellow at the Washington DC-based Global Federation of Competitiveness Councils.
“The AfCFTA presents opportunity for Africa to create conditions for new and yet to be conceived companies to be established…beyond capacity and strategies for the mechanical implementation of the AfCFTA,” he says.
According to Dr Khumbah, competitiveness defines the “quality of being as good as or better than others of a comparable nature,” which challenges local producers to aim higher as they brace for increased competition with regional peers.
His insights are contained in a presentation titled: “Global Competitiveness Imperatives for Zimbabwe in the Wake of AfCFTA and Globalisation,” which was shared during a recent Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries (CZI) Annual Congress.
In this regard, Dr Khumbah has urged Zimbabwean businesses to strive to project themselves as unique in the regional market to make huge impact.
“What are the top 20 companies owned and operated by Zimbabweans, and how can some of these companies be supported to become continental players?” he asked.
“Can some ‘made-in-Zimbabwe’ brands become continental or global African brands, much like Coca-Cola and Samsung are global brands? Can the AfCFTA result in the emergence of a new and sizable cadre of Zimbabwean business leaders, as captains of continental African industry?”
In the same token, Dr Khumbah challenges Zimbabwean professionals to also thrive for competitiveness in the skills arena to emerge top in filling the enormous gap of shortage of critical human and technical capacity in the continent, which is a critical factor under the AfCFTA.
“Can Zimbabwe leverage its most important strategic assets to use the AfCFTA as spring-board to become the ‘South Korea’ of regional Africa?” he added.
“Will some national companies be better off commanding 10 percent of current national sectors or one percent of US$3 (US$8) trillion continental sectors? What thought processes, policies and investments can lead to such outcomes?”
In view of the complex global market dynamics and now the coming in of the AfCFTA, Dr Khumbah says Zimbabwe needs to embrace key competitiveness imperatives, which demand that local business and the Government collaborate in upgrading industrial manufacturing processes to meet diverse consumer needs and beefing up product quality standards, for instance.
He suggests that the country also needs to invest more in critical human resource development with a bias on science and technology related disciplines, which he says has a transformative export impact.
Noting the global geo-interests such as climate change and environmental conservation, Dr Khumba says Zimbabwe needs to find its niche and, working closely with partners, work towards achieving optimal outcomes within the new African economic order.
“Zimbabwean competitiveness in the wake of AfCFTA and globalisation is about Zimbabwe’s place in the emerging African economic order for the next century,” he says.