Prosper Ndlovu, Business Editor
THE adoption of the Common Agro-Industrial Park Initiative is critical in attracting private sector investments into the sector and building strong industrial hubs that will help build momentum towards increased intra-regional trade and widening job opportunities, Industry and Commerce Minister, Dr Sekai Nzenza, said yesterday.
Zimbabwe and Zambia are spearheading the model, which has come under spotlight at the on-going African Union (AU) Summit on Industrialisation and Economic Transformation in Niamey, Niger where regional leaders are engaged in deliberations aimed at boosting industrial production and trade within the continent.
This year’s Summit is being held under the theme: “Industrialising Africa; Renewed Commitment Towards an Inclusive and Sustainable Industrialisation and Economic Diversification”.
Regarded as the first of its kind in Africa, Zimbabwe and Zambia have embarked on a joint cross-border agro-industrial park under the Common Agro-Industrial Park (CAIP) programme, which seeks to harness mutual value chain opportunities in the sector.
Both countries have higher comparative and competitive advantages in agriculture as the mainstay of their economies.
Responding to questions during yesterday’s session on CAIP modelling, Dr Nzenza, who arrived in Niamey earlier this week, said strengthening regional cooperation towards deepening value chain synergies was critical in transforming the continent’s economy.
“Indeed Common Agro Parks have become vehicles for attracting private sector investments in establishing mega-industrial hubs on the continent,” she said.
“The starting point for this dialogue on Common Agro-Industrial parks is in the pursuit of the Africa we want through AU Agenda 2063.
“This recognises two key things – intentional strategic collaboration in pursuit of regional and continental trade and mobilisation of funding around development of interlinking value chains.”
Dr Nzenza said efforts to establish a Common Agro-Industrial Park between the two neighbouring countries were energised by the cordial bilateral relations and shared history of cooperation, which dates back to the colonial period.
“Around this we created a shared opportunity around the future of industrialisation. In pursuit of that, we are jointly implementing an industrialisation cooperation programme following the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding in March 2021,” she said.
“As a starting point for strengthening our cooperation, we have chosen the establishment of a Common Agro-Industrial Park, and this is based on the comparative advantages we have in the agricultural sector.
“Indeed, this will be the first of its kind in Southern Africa. It will be situated at one of the border areas shared by the two countries.”
Minister Nzenza told delegates that enhancing collaboration within the development of value chains was critical towards development of vibrant regional and continental trade.
“If Africa is to trade with itself, Africa must be prepared to produce high value products on a collaborative basis.
“It is on this premise that both the ‘moving up the value chains agenda’ and re-engagement policy by His Excellency the President of the Republic of Zimbabwe is based. It is the same way the Joint Industrial Park with Zambia was born,” she said.
Dr Nzenza said the CAIP model represents the agricultural potential and expertise in both countries to create employment, anchor investment and economic growth across the borders.
The linkages fostered with other economic sectors in the member States are vital in fulfilling the ideals of higher levels on intra-regional trade as espoused in the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) vision.
“Through CAIP we expect to enjoy the benefits of enhanced rural industrialisation through linkages between farmers and agro park firms at the border areas between Zimbabwe and Zambia,” said Minister Nzenza.
Delegates had sought clarity on how the CAIP supports the growth of a robust agro-industrial sector in Zimbabwe and the region as well as how the initiative feeds into the free trade area aspects involving selected agricultural products.
The summit is part of the Africa Industrialisation Week (AIW – 20-25 November 2022), annual commemorative activities aimed at highlighting Africa’s renewed determination and commitment to industrialisation.