Zimbabwe is now taking practical steps to create a momentum to push for industrialisation which primarily aims to add value to primary commodities in diverse sectors such as horticulture, leather production, shoe and garment making, mineral products and many others.
The Government and stakeholders in the private sector, academia, research institutions and other civil organisations recently held a meeting in the capital to popularise the Sadc
Industrialisation Strategy and Roadmap at national level
Discussions on industrialisation were frank and candid and private sector players and civil rights organisations laid out their proposals bare despite the constraints facing the economy.
Despite the differences that emerged from the consultative meeting, participants all agreed that Zimbabwe needs to make painful decisions to enhance its competitiveness, retool its industry and tackle key cost drivers which affected the country’s manufacturing and production capacity.
Industry and Commerce Deputy Minister Chiratidzo Mabuwa said Government is committed to creating a conducive environment to promote industrialisation through dialogue and consultation.
“For the Sadc Industrialisation Strategy to be successful, the private sector has to take a leading role since they are the implementers while Government remains at your disposal to create the necessary environment for you to operate in,” she said.
“Therefore the private sector has to advise Government on the structures it deems necessary to spearhead the industrialisation agenda. The role of business, academia, researchers and government cannot be over emphasised in order for this industrialisation agenda to come to fruition.
“I am aware of the difficult environment that is obtaining and resultantly hindering the performance of local companies. Government continues to look at ways to ease these challenges.”
Zimbabwe, Sadc and the African Union have embraced industrialisation — adding value to the primary commodities, from mining, agriculture, tourism, horticulture, shoe and garment manufacturing and dairy making.
Governments have identified these as key sectors which could help lift the countries out of poverty and firmly set the economies on a sustainable economic footing.
Growing calls for the push for the frontloading of industrialisation grew when Zimbabwe took over the chairmanship of Sadc in August 2014 at a summit in Victoria Falls.
At the summit, regional leaders resolved to develop a Sadc Industrialisation Strategy and Roadmap (2015-2063).
“The Sadc Industrialisation Strategy and Roadmap was borne out of the realisation that the industrialisation agenda in the region was lagging behind other regional developmental agenda,” said Deputy Minister Mabuwa.
“Sadc member states noted the need for the region to produce first in order to trade. Despite the progress made in other pillars such as market integration (trade) it was noted that intra-regional trading remained low because there was nothing to trade, hence the need to industrialise in order to produce the goods that will enable trade.”
The Sadc Industrialisation Strategy is anchored on three pillars, namely industrialisation, competitiveness and regional integration.
The central challenge facing Zimbabwe and most other African countries is how to transition from the commodity-dependent growth path in which African countries find themselves to value-adding, knowledge-intensive and industrialised economies.
Low productivity, technology and low competitiveness have remained a major headache for Zimbabwe and other African countries — apart from heavy reliance on crude extractive products.
Economic experts say the low productivity of traditional agriculture and the informal activities continue to absorb more than 80 percent of the labour force.
And growth, they further say, remains highly vulnerable to external shocks.
At the consultative meeting, participants were unanimous about the need to address all bottlenecks that have prevented Zimbabwe from moving firmly on the path to industrialisation.
“Discourse on industrialisation has revolved more around competitiveness and examining the whole value chain of our products,” said Mr Demos Mbauya, general manager of Schweppes Zimbabwe.
“We have to produce and reduce our reliance on imports. Sometimes we import because it gives us a competitive edge. This is unfortunate, but as we move ahead and unite in the drive to industrialisation, we should come up with better strategies to enhance our competitiveness.”
Buy Zimbabwe Campaign lobbyist Mr Munyaradzi Hwengwere said: “We have to deal with the real local value content to help spur industrialisation.”
Mr Munetsi Madakufamba, executive director at Southern African Research and Documentation Centre (Sardc) and Zimbabwe National Council of SMEs leader Mr Daniel Chinyemba said industrialisation must be inclusive and create space for small-to-medium enterprise development.
“There is no strategy to include SMEs,” said Mr Chinyemba.
“It is estimated that there are three million SMEs which employ around seven million people in Zimbabwe. There should be a deliberate policy shift to include SMEs.
Other participants called for the government and all players to address bottlenecks in the energy sector, transport and infrastructure as well as the cost of labour.
Ms Rungano Karimanzira, director of Projects and Technology Transfer at the Ministry of Higher and Tertiary Education Science and Technology Development said there was a need to develop skills to drive industrialisation.
“In this era of high turnover of technologies, we need a skills programme to drive the industrialisation process,” she said.
“An obsolete skills base that is not fit to run new technologies is not good for us. We need to interrogate sector by sector and certify the skills we possess.”
Mr Solomon Madondo of Olivine Industries said there was a need to revamp the National Railways of Zimbabwe and re-tool strategic industries such as Zisco to reduce heavy reliance on steel imports and road infrastructure to move bulk goods.
This, he said, would help reduce costs for all sectors and value chains.
Decent work and value addition that come with industrialisation are considered a key way that Zimbabwe and most other African countries can grow, transform and diversify their economies and become middle income countries.
Most African countries still rely heavily on a handful of primary resources for exports, such as gold or the so-called black golds: oil, coal and coffee and a whole range of agricultural products.
By investing in industry, experts say these countries can add value to their primary exports.
Industrialisation, they further note, means creating jobs and incomes. Industrial jobs partially reduce the pressure on migration and also resolve the root causes of poverty.
The road to meaningful and inclusive development is long and winding, but participants were optimistic about the debate on industrialisation.
They said there was no other better option other than to make real, sustainable progress through industrialisation.
They all pledged to work together and do more to turn industrialisation into a reality.
Among other proposals that were made, participants recommended diversification of economic structure, namely of production and exports, enhancement of export competitiveness, technological upgrading, improvement of the productivity of all resources, including labour, infrastructure development, re-tooling of strategic industries such as NRZ, Zisco, Zesa and others, promoting inclusive policies to cover SMEs and smallholder farmers as well as promoting regional and global exports.
Zimbabwe has so far identified 12 areas of focus for value chain development. These cover products such as soya, sugar, meat, dairy, food and drinks, horticulture, forestry, wildlife, fertiliser, mining, cement and pharmaceuticals among others.
Only by delivering in these and other areas can all players in the private and public sectors ensure that growth enhances human well-being and contributes to inclusive development in Zimbabwe.
“It’s Zimbabwe that we are trying to mould so let’s not be selfish,” said Mr Callisto Jokonya, a prominent industrialist.
“We should leave a footprint for the coming generations by working to industrialise the country.” —Zimpapers Syndication.