Martin Kadzere Harare Bureau
Zimbabwe should work on improving competitiveness to compete with foreign products as import restrictions are just a temporary solution, Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa has said. His sentiments come after Government gazetted Statutory Instrument 64 of 2016, which temporarily regulates importation of certain products that can be produced locally.Speaking during the Buy Zimbabwe annual summit in Mutare last Thursday, VP Mnangagwa said while the legislation was meant to protect local companies from unfair competition, enhancing competitiveness remained a long-term solution.
He also underscored the need to develop a robust import substation strategy meant to replace imported products with local goods while urging consumers, including the Government, to embrace local commodities.
“We need to appreciate that restrictions are not permanent and that in the long term, pressure from trading partners will always force us to open our markets again,” said VP Mnangagwa.
“Industry must appreciate the important role that competition plays in the global economy. We risk closing ourselves out of the global market and fail to develop in line with global trends.”
Some of the products, which were removed from Open General Import Licence include bottled water, mayonnaise, salad cream, peanut butter, jams, maheu, canned fruits, vegetables, pizza, yoghurts, flavoured milks, dairy juice blends, ice-creams, cultured milk, cheese, coffee creamers, camphor creams, white petroleum jellies, body creams and plastic pipes.
The legislation also controls importation of second-hand tyres, urea and ammonium nitrate fertilisers, tile adhesives and tylon, shoe polish and synthetic hair products.
Goods categorised as builder-ware products including wheelbarrows (flat pan and concrete pan wheelbarrows), roofing frameworks, pillars, columns, balustrade, shutters, towers, masts, roofs and roofing framework are also part of the restricted list.
The Vice President said for the country to be competitive again, a model that looks at major costs and prices to come up with a range within which costs and prices may fall, as guided by agreed regional benchmarks, should be developed.
VP Mnangagwa expressed concern over the influx of imports, saying there was need to eliminate unnecessary imports by having them produced locally.
He said while the Government was playing its part to restrict imports of goods that can be produced locally, the impact of the Buy Zimbabwe campaign remain dependent on the extent to which consumers embrace local products.
“I urge you to always remember that as we purchase foreign products, we actually make foreign-based companies to attain critical volumes that allow them to enjoy economies of scale and hence cut prices on us,” said VP Mnangagwa.
“Furthermore, it means that as a result of such skewed purchasing decisions, we end up indirectly creating jobs in foreign countries when our own companies are closing or filing bankruptcy, leaving our brothers, sisters, friends, sons and daughters without jobs.
“So as we work towards increasing imports and creating new jobs, it is necessary that we all rally behind the call to buy local.”
The VP said the Buy Zimbabwe campaign was therefore a positive initiative meant to support the growth of local companies as well as to create savings in foreign currency correcting the current trade imbalance.
“I want to underscore the fact that the Buy Local message is an ongoing call to action for the public and private sectors, all businesses in the country, all Government entities, to buy local products and services so that local businesses can grow, thereby stimulating economic growth and job creation,” he said.