By Enacy Mapakame
Appropriate Technologies Africa (ATA) expects to more than double production volumes in the medium-term through mechanising Zimbabwe’s small to medium enterprises (SMEs).
ATA manufactures a variety of industrial equipment – including grinding mills, diesel generators, electric motors, submersible pumps and others — targeting small businesses in mining, agriculture and manufacturing.
The idea is to boost job creation at the base, christian oriented ATA’s chairman Andy Whyte said, while tackling issues around poverty and climate-related losses in the agriculture sector.
Mr Whyte said ATA’s agriculture and mining equipment were popular among SMEs.
“Our vision is employment creation through empowering small scale enterprise,” Mr Whyte told The Herald Business, by email, but would not discuss projected production output in detail.
“We (produce) and sell mining, agricultural and construction machinery. Artisanal miners and tobacco farmers have demonstrated a great liking for the products we supply.
The company also provides technical back-up services while the availability of spares locally meant that entrepreneurs did not have to lose production hours sourcing spare parts abroad.
This has been a factor that has serially grounded even the biggest manufacturers in Zimbabwe.
Mr Whyte asserted that a stable political environment was a fertile ground for businesses to flourish, as long as they were supported by clear-cut policies of the host Government.
Remarkably, emerging companies, like those targeted by ATA have flourished despite having at one point experienced periods of economic regression.
In fact, SMEs have proven to be one of the country’s main economic engines, expanding dramatically over the past decade-and-a-half.
Small businesses now account for more than 80 percent of employment in Zimbabwe, about two thirds of tobacco output and over half of gold production, Government data shows.
Gold is the largest export earner.
Mr Whyte said, unlike other companies, his firm did not see value in charging customers three different prices for the same product depending on the method of payment used– mobile/bank transfer, real US dollars or bond notes.
Three-tier pricing is now common practice in industry and commerce, however banned by the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ).
“Products come with payment terms as part of efforts to provide affordable implements for start-ups especially those in gold mining and tobacco farming,” Mr Whyte said.
ATA’s focus remains on empowering communities through providing affordable machinery that enhances production.
He however said while Zimbabwe’s business environment lagged behind regional peers such as Zambia and Botswana, there was need for industry to be creative enough to survive the current environment.
The limitations in transaction models, as Zimbabweans are still embracing plastic money as well as foreign currency shortages have had a knock on effect on local industry with some companies failing to procure the essential raw materials, resulting in supply gaps.
“We need a more open economy like what Zambia and Botswana have,” said Mr Whyte.
Since its formation in 1998 in Zimbabwe, ATA has been providing relevant and cost effective technologies to empower entrepreneurs in Africa to especially to meet small business needs.
s0In line with its quest to bring solutions to small scale tobacco farmers, ATA set up branches at TSF and Boka tobacco floors as well as in Karoi during tobacco season.