‘Industry has the capacity to substitute imports’

Joseph Gunda
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THE private sector has come in full support of Government’s local content policy, imploring it to move with speed and start enforcing the directive in order to cut down on imports, promote new jobs and support the growth of new industries.

Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries (CZI) vice-president Joseph Gunda, said Zimbabwe depended on imports of a number of products that required a lot of foreign currency yet local industry had the capacity to produce the substitutes.

Mr Gunda said it was Government that had the prerogative to see to it that the local content policy, which was unveiled in 2019, is implemented to ensure creation of new jobs, new and modernised industries and reduce imports.

Notably, Zimbabwe is expected to experience rapid economic growth following the approval by Cabinet of two key policies, the Zimbabwe National Industrial Development Policy (ZNIDP) and the Zimbabwe Local Content Strategy (2019-2023) in June last year.

As such, industry has pledged its support to ensure the policy as directed by Government achieves the desired outcomes.

“There are a number of imported products, which are still finding access to the local market at the expense of local products,” said Mr Gunda.

“They get a fair allocation of foreign currency and are imported as finished products yet the capacity is available, the machinery is available and the labour, not just labour, but expert labour is available.

“The issue of local content policy is what would go a long way to help in reducing some imports and we are not the first because other countries have done it. If you look at India, they have what they call ‘Make India’.”

Due to that working relationship between Government and the private sector, Mr Gunda said, India is leading in pharmaceuticals and health sector supplies, engineering, the automotive industry and the ICT sectors among others.

Said Mr Gunda: “That I believe will promote local industries, local companies to come up with innovative ideas, knowing that the local market is there, they can substitute imports,” he said.

After satisfying local market, there is massive potential for the local companies to go regional and global in search of expanded markets for their products.

Mr Gunda said contrary to common perception, local industry had potential to produce a number of certain basic goods, which are being imported, at a much lower cost. The CZI vice-president bemoaned a situation where more than 60 percent of products on Zimbabwe’s supermarkets were foreign. He pointed out that the presence of a fairly good number of locally produced commodities on shop shelves, was testimony to the capacity of local manufacturing firms to produce at competitive prices.

“At some point, 79 percent of what the local mining sector uses was imported and that’s not acceptable. Th ere must be a deliberate drive and policy towards local content, when you do that even new companies will come up knowing they have support,” he said.

CZI has said the acknowledgement by both Government and the private sector that production holds the key to recovery is a good necessary first step to turning the corner.

Industry said it was ready to suggest how production can be stimulated and to lead the process of change. A rebalancing of the economy to put manufacturing at the centre of the economy is called for. Policy support and removal of all impediments to stimulation of production in the economy is key and very feasible.

Prioritisation of resources and foreign currency towards production and recognition that import substitution is as important as exports generation is a necessary shift in paradigm, CZI said. A reduction in importation of finished goods and a deliberate bias towards raw materials is called for moving into the future. Policies that encourage the importation of finished goods by those with access to foreign currency leads to the dead end the economy finds itself at, the industrial lobby group noted.