United Refineries focuses on export market reconnection

Busisa Moyo

Leading personal care and agro-commodities processor, United Refineries Limited (URL), will this year focus more on re-connecting with export markets, which have been dormant for the last decade, chief executive officer Busisa Moyo has said.

The company used to export to Botswana, South Africa and Zambia in the late 1990s and early 2000s, but was forced to halt exports around the year 2000 due to a myriad of challenges, including a downturn of the economy.

“One of our biggest area of work this year is to graduate from a national company to a regional company,” said Moyo adding that URL is also looking at “introducing one product for the international market to be on the likes of Amazon and Alibaba”.

With the foreign currency challenges that Zimbabwean companies have faced in the last couple of years, many have turned to the export market to cushion themselves from non-availability of foreign exchange.

Last week, Business Weekly reported that Schweppes Zimbabwe is also eyeing export-led growth, as operations were being choked by severe foreign currency shortages, which have seen production fluctuating due to challenges around access to raw materials.

Companies are also looking at taking advantage of the export incentives being extended by the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe. Under the performance-based export support scheme, exporters can negotiate above 20 percent export incentives according to the RBZ.

The apex bank introduced the export incentive scheme on all exports in May 2016 to promote growth, productivity and development of the export sector to enhance foreign currency inflows.

Another focus area for URL, according to Moyo, is on localising the value chains behind, increasing soya bean production and reconnecting with CSC for animal tallow which used to be the key feedstock for soap manufacturing.

“The third is accessing capital markets, once there is clarity of direction in terms of currency, we can be bold about an Initial Public Offering in 2021,” he said.

URL has already engaged a team of advisors and has been officially invited by the ZSE to list the business. The listing will be part of efforts to grow the business.

In terms of business risk, Moyo said lack of consensus on how to solve the country’s challenges towards economic recovery is a major worry.

“The major risk for business is lack of consensus on how we tackle our immediate problems and the path we should take in economic recovery priorities as we head up the hill of middle-income status as enunciated by President Mnangagwa.”

Moyo said consensus is also lacking with regard issues of re-engagement and the currency of use. He added that as a business leader he has been advocating for a social contract so that labour, business and Government can hold each other to account.

“I have been an advocate for the crafting of a social contract to support the Transitional Stabilisation Programme from the Ministry of Finance and other economic measures and programmes so that labour, business and Government can hold each other to account and can be easily supported by development partners, SADC, AU and other international finance institutions.

“Civic society will then have a clear platform that inspires confidence that economic recovery and reforms are being worked on and sacrifices being made in good faith will yield the results that the country needs,” he said.

Moyo said parliamentarians should accelerate the passing of the Tripartite Negotiating Forum Bill but allow organised business to elect its own representatives freely based on verifiable membership, and for the bill to recognise the Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries, Zimbabwe National Chamber of Commerce, Chamber of Mines, Bankers Association of Zimbabwe, Cross Border Traders Association of Zimbabwe, SMEDCO and others so that representation is balanced and genuine.

“The process itself needs to be inclusive and reach across the divide so that this platform become a driver for economic cohesion and growth for our high priority issues as a country,” said Moyo.