Oliver Kazunga, Senior Business Reporter
LOCAL companies should now start exploring markets across the continent to tap into the vast potential opportunities presented by the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), Industry and Commerce Deputy Minister Raj Modi, has said.
The AfCFTA is a trade agreement operationalised on the first of January this year with a view to promote intra-African trade in a market with over 1,3 billion people, the world’s largest single market.
Speaking in an interview after touring three companies in the printing and packaging sector in Bulawayo last Thursday, Deputy Minister Modi said the implementation of the AfCFTA not only presents challenges to local industry but opportunities for local enterprises to broaden their market share. “We are over 50 countries in Africa, so we have all that market. As a country that’s an opportunity for us so that we don’t look to the markets that are very close to us,” he said.
“South Africa or Zambia are very close to us of course, but let’s go a little further to DRC (Democratic Republic of Congo) and other places little far from here (Zimbabwe).”
Zimpapers Group’s commercial printing company, Typocrafters, as well as Print Serve and Alpha Print are the firms that Deputy Minister Modi visited. He was accompanied by ministry officials, and the Federation of Master Printers of Zimbabwe chairman Mr Ben Ntini, visited.
“We have got the opportunity for our industries to export. But somebody has to explore and the Government has done its part on that, now it remains with the individual companies to explore the markets,” said Modi.
Over the years, the country’s trade development and promotion agency, ZimTrade has conducted market surveys on continental markets and presented results of the findings to local exporters on foreign markets they can export to.
Such export market surveys have been conducted to countries such as South Sudan, DRC, Angola, Namibia, Botswana, and Mozambique.
To foster exports growth and development, ZimTrade, has also been conducting export seminars and training workshop to equip small and medium enterprises with knowledge on how to penetrate the foreign markets.
Deputy Minister Modi said the AfCFTA has brought competition in the market, a move which is good in terms of providing quality products to the consumers. “In the market, competition is always going to be there but it’s great because manufacturers will have to improve the quality of their products and pricing has to be competitive as well,” he said.
For a long time, he said Zimbabwean businesses have been protected by the Government through various incentives meant to foster exports but the private sector has not played the ball as per expectation. “We have been protected by the Government for so long here in Zimbabwe. We have been given a lot of incentives and all that, but we are still not doing what the Government expected (improving exports to competitive levels) and with the opening of the market through this trade agreement (AfCFTA), those who want to do business will certainly have the opportunity to do that,” said Deputy Minister Modi.