The prevailing macroeconomic environment in Zimbabwe, characterised by a liquidity crisis, critical foreign currency shortages, power crisis, and many other related factors impede on industry’s efforts to produce for the export market, an industrialist has said.
Zimbabwe’s exports to Africa and beyond have been declining since the 1990s, as a result of industrial failure and subsequent company closures.
The few companies that are still exporting are also facing a myriad of challenges threatening their viability in the export markets.
Addressing captains of industry and commerce during ZimTrade exporters’ indaba last Thursday in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe National Chamber of Commerce (ZNCC) vice president responsible for Matabeleland, Golden Muoni, said challenges in the export sector dated back to 1980 when the country attained its independence from Britain.
“This is not a problem which started 10 years ago; probably it started 38 years ago,” said Muoni.
“We inherited an industry which is aging where the bulk of the machines which are in our industries are antiquated. Bulawayo used to be the hub of industry but what kind of machines are there in our industries?”
He said with machines as old as the 1960s and 70s it was difficult for Zimbabwean companies to compete with countries such as China, India, United States and others which are using the best technology.
“You cannot have a competitive advantage when you use old machinery,” posited Muoni.
He said with most of the companies operating at between 15 to 20 percent capacity utilisation, it was impossible for them to compete in the region.
The industrialist said the current power crisis the country is experiencing was also negatively affecting export growth.
“Right now as I am speaking, the whole of yesterday (last Wednesday) we spent the whole day without power. How then are you going to grow your exports when you spend the whole day without power?” he queried.
Muoni said it was regrettable that despite the Zimbabwean economy being agro-based, agriculture continued to underperform.
“Where is our agriculture? We are an agro-based economy and a bulk of our raw materials is coming from agriculture but our economy is dead. We have people with farms which are not productive,” he bemoaned.
He added that currency challenges needed to be fixed for the country to attract investors and subsequently grow exports.
“We have the issue of currency. What is the name of our local currency? Is it the Zim dollar or RTGS?” he questioned.
He expressed concern over the government’s reluctance in dealing with illegal foreign currency dealers, whom he accused of destroying to local currency through their speculative behaviour.
“Those people are known but our jails are empty; they have a few people who are there,” said Muoni.
“Why do we allow people to speculate and destroy our own currency when we have jails which can be fitting for those people to go behind the bars?”