Kudakwashe Mhundwa and Kumbirai Tarusarira Business Reporters
Zimbabwe is likely to lose out on the 1,2 billion strong market provided for by the Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA), which generates over US$3,4 trillion gross domestic (GDP) product annually if it does not develop its competitiveness in the global industry, senior trade officials have warned.
Addressing business leaders at a local sourcing for partnerships project training and capacity building workshops for SMEs recently, director for quality assurance in the Ministry of Industry and Commerce Angelica Katuruza, said Zimbabwean trade is constrained by the inability to produce competitive products that meet international requirements.
“Production of goods that do not meet international quality standards presents a large constraint to agricultural industrialisation in Zimbabwe. There is a need to strengthen agribusiness linkages along the major agricultural commodity value chains.
“CFTA, which is the second largest trade agreement after the World Trade Organisation, covers a market of more than $1,2 billion people, and a combined gross domestic product of more US$3,4 trillion, echo opportunities for Zimbabwe. All these can be meaningless if we do not have able and competitive enterprises that can take advantage and compete in regional and global markets.
“Quality assurance is an ongoing process and we must continue creating awareness among the local private sector producers and manufacturers regarding adherence to standard requirements,” she said
According to figures provided by Comesa, Zimbabwe’s trade with member states in the region is still heavily subdued with the country only accounting for US$220m of total exports in 2017.
However, Government says it has drafted the National Quality Policy (NQP), which seeks to establish a national accreditation body and a market surveillance unit to assess the quality of products produced in local industries, which ensures that products meet conformity standards of both the local and international markets.
“NQP seeks to fill a gap within our policies in Government. That gap speaks to the production of quality products coming from our industry. You may be aware that as the Ministry of Industry and Commerce and Government at large, we have been putting in place policies to develop the industry, increase production and source locally.
“We have not really put in place a policy that ensures that the quality of product that is coming from our industries meets the relevant standards and this is critical,” said Ms Katuruza
Also speaking at the occasion Comesa Business Council chief executive officer Sandra Uwera, said there is a need to build great and sustainable enterprises to ensure that the country effectively benefits from both Comesa and CFTA markets.
“The Comesa region carries a large market of the African continent, with a population of more than 540 million consumers and total trade of US$240 billion recorded in 2017.
“Intra-comes trade represents a minute 6,7 percent. The signature of the TFTA agreement in 2017 between Comesa, EAC and SADC provides for even a greater market opportunity with an estimate of even 700 million consumers more recent the CFTA is coming into fruition with 22 ratification already been met. This offers a combined population of 1,6 billion consumers. However, to ensure these opportunities within the regional integration agendas to actually come into fruition; there is need to build great and sustainable enterprises,” she said.