ZimTrade establishes regional export clusters

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Panashe Chikonyora Business Reporter
National trade development and promotion body, ZimTrade, is working on establishing regional export clusters to facilitate the country’s export potential.

This will see the trade body working with Provincial Ministers and business organisations to ensure all stakeholders are taken on board.

According to ZimTrade, the move is in line with President Mnangagwa’s clarion call last year directing all provinces to work with the agency in developing their export business plans based on areas of comparative advantage.

During ZimTrade’s exporters conference last year, the Government emphasised on the devolution agenda and the national export strategy, which calls for the need for both the private and the public sectors to work together in order to boost the country’s exports.

“The current engagement drive with provincial leaderships is expected to culminate in the identification of viable export products and services to be developed as well as create stronger linkages between established exporters and small and medium enterprises (SMEs).

“The plan is to make sure that the small-scale players are also incorporated in the regional and global value chains and for them to understand the international standards of doing business and to export,” ZimTrade said in a position paper.

This development is critical as it comes at a time when the country’s exports have been declining and currently has been worsened by the Covid-19 pandemic, which has seen countries closing borders, airlines grounding passengers’ flights save for cargo that is essential for carrying Personal Protective Equipment and other consumables.

The pandemic has killed hundreds of thousands and infected millions across the globe, while increasing unemployment rate in most countries as people continue to lose jobs.

“There are also plans to capacitate and develop local companies in all provinces so that they are adequately prepared to address challenges posed by coronavirus (Covid-19) and also take advantage of the emerging opportunities,” ZimTrade said.

“With regards to operational aspects of the clusters, the plan is to ensure that provinces can specialise in production of specific products that they have comparative advantage, riding upon product experience, ecological endowments and established infrastructure accruing to the province.

“To achieve this, ZimTrade will work with provinces in capacity development of their businesses, focusing on technical skills, market information and standardisation. . . ensuring that local provincial businesses participate effectively in the national, regional and international value chains,” the trade body said.

ZimTrade urged provinces to focus on niche products and services in order to increase their export competitiveness.

With the continued increase in the demand for horticultural products and the current reduction in sugar exports by global players, the country’s provinces such as Manicaland, Mashonaland East, West and Central, Matabeleland, Masvingo and Harare can maximise production of such products and penetrate major markets.

Players in the horticulture business can leverage on Covid-19 that had decimated value chains in other parts of the world to regain such lost markets.

Given that the pandemic has not struck some parts of Africa with huge magnitude, players in various sectors should grab that opportunity to establish themselves and move into the affected regions when the disease is declared officially eradicated.