Prosper Ndlovu, Business Editor
WITH only a few weeks left before the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) implementation begins, the Government has called upon small to medium enterprises (SMEs) to position themselves for lucrative export opportunities.
Zimbabwe has one of the vibrant SMEs sector in Africa, which plays a critical role in job creation, empowerment, wealth generation and the economy as a whole.
Trade experts believe the operationalisation of the AfCFTA starting next month, will connect about 1,3 billion people across 55 countries in Africa with a combined gross domestic product (GDP) of $3,4 trillion.
This presents wider opportunity for budding entrepreneurs, says Dr Sithembiso Nyoni, the Minister of Women Affairs, Community and Small to Medium Enterprises Development.
Minister Nyoni said since Covid-19 has disrupted traditional trading models, Zimbabwe would seek leverage on digital technology to enhance its export market advantage.
She, however, admitted there was a gap in relevant infrastructure provision, which the Government and private sector players would need to urgently address.
“Yes, we are alive of the AfCFTA. I am sure you have heard that as a ministry we launched the ‘50 million speak’, which is an internet way of communicating in the Sadc and Comesa area where we say we want 50 million women in Comesa to start communicating and marketing their goods.
“So, you can imagine by that small success if we connect and market our goods we can then go to the rest of Africa,” said Dr Nyoni in a recent interview.
“These days marketing is not really about travelling from one place to another but connectivity on the internet. When you surf the Internet, you can get products and do orders online.
“We in Zimbabwe and Comesa region have started as a way of connecting women and marketing their business.”
Minister Nyoni said the infrastructure provision gap was a major barrier to robust SMEs growth. She admitted that due to limited capacity, a lot of SME entrepreneurs were producing in their backyard and as a result tend to lack adequate market support.
“We want land so that we develop adequate production and distribution centres. Many people want products, good quality products but they don’t know where to go because we don’t have organised market places and that is our cry for now as ministry of SMEs,” said Dr Nyoni.
“We really would like to see production and distribution centres where women manufacture at the back and then market at the front.
“Also, we want to go e-commerce and e-marketing so that even in a village we have good connectivity so that women can produce their goods and link with those wanting to buy online.”
In addition to digital network connection, Minister Nyoni said, urgent attention was needed in sprucing the country’s road network for improved transportation.
“What we mainly need are better roads. We are still developing and improving the roads. It is very important that we facilitate transportation and logistics,” she said.
“We are saying that marketplaces are critical so that after people have produced, buyers will know where to go and easily transport these products.”
Last Friday, President Mnangagwa launched the Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) Policy 2020-2024 aimed at ensuring that MSMEs and other marginalised groups take part in the national development agenda and contribute to the country’s vision to attain an upper middle-income economy by 2030.
President Mnangagwa stressed the need for MSMEs to have clear, achievable benchmarks laid out in tandem with the National Vision 2030. To show support for the sector, the 2021 National Budget saw the allocation of an unprecedented $1billion to the MSMEs so that they are empowered to grow their businesses.
The MSME Policy 2020-2024, the President said, will ensure that the MSMEs sector makes meaningful contributions to the 2030 vision.