THE continued imposition of illegal sanctions will not stop Zimbabwe’s economic transformation as the country is building robust internal capacities to create wealth and expand job opportunities for its citizens, Vice President Dr Constantine Chiwenga said yesterday.
The roll out of the National Development Strategy (NDS1 2021-2025), which builds on the milestones achieved under the Transitional Stabilisation Programme (TSP), marks the march towards realisation of this transformation, with the ultimate goal being to achieve an upper middle-income economy by 2030, he said.
Guided by this vision, the Vice President said Zimbabwe has no reason to sit back and cry foul, but must deliver broad-based transformation, create capital and expand the horizon of economic opportunities for all Zimbabweans.
Delivering his keynote address to mark the official launch of the Zimbabwe Leather Sector Strategy (2021-2030) in Bulawayo Dr Chiwenga said the disruptive impact of sanctions could be successfully reversed through revitalising domestic value chains, cutting on imports and expanding prospects for inclusive growth.
Before the imposition of sanctions Zimbabwe used to be one of the most sophisticated leather industry destinations in the region, exporting its shoes and upholstery leather to lucrative markets in the European Union, among others.
“This (sanctions) is now behind us. We no longer talk of sanctions; the land has been reunited with its people and the people with their land and that is now over. We now move on,” said Dr Chiwenga.
“That period has given us the chance, the time to think outside the box and we now have to rebuild our livestock and leather products. We want all of us, not in the too distant future, to talk about the best leather in Zimbabwe globally. Zimbabwean leather has to be the best and that way we will rebuild our glorious past.”
In that regard, the VP said the Second Republic led by President Mnangagwa was prioritising crafting and implementation of sectoral policies and strategies such as the new Zimbabwe Leather Sector Strategy to achieve renewed industry efficiency and foster inclusive growth.
“When it comes to the leather industry, Zimbabwe is better positioned than its regional peers since the leather value chain is well structured, starting from input suppliers, livestock farmers, abattoirs…and manufacturers of leather products and retailers,” he said.
Cabinet approved the new leather policy last November as part of measures to position the sector for increased domestic value addition and beneficiation under the export-led industrialisation programme.
The comprehensive document sets out priority programmes and reforms aimed at driving increased output and energizing value chains.
These will be implemented over the next 10 years and reflect the concerns of stakeholders in the leather industry, and are anchored under the country’s Vision 2030.
Despite the frustration being inflicted by sanctions since the turn of the millennium when the country embarked on the successful fast-track land reform programme, Dr Chiwenga said Zimbabweans have exhibited resilience with the productive sector also retaining its vibe.
He said Zimbabwe remains better positioned ahead of regional peers in terms of opportunity to boost industrial activity, and scaling up capacity towards export-led production is the missing link.
Dr Chiwenga said the beef and leather industry, in particular, which has been heavily crippled by the adverse impact of sanctions in recent years, was among the key sectors earmarked to drive the turnaround of the country’s economy.
The Government, working with the private sector leather players led by the Zimbabwe Leather Development Council and development partners such as the African Development Bank and the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa) has set the ball rolling through implementing beef and leather value chain projects targeting small to medium enterprises.
Already 10 leather sub-clusters have been set up in Matabeleland North province with the intention of creating 10-mini factories capable of making school shoes and other leather products. Under the project, 10 sets of four different machines have been bought for training and capacitating trainees. More interventions are being worked on to enhance quality and standards.
Dr Chiwenga acknowledged concerns and propositions by the industry players who have identified 26 policies and pieces of legislation to be reviewed by the Government. He said this will ensure the business environment is streamlined and will go a long way in advancing the sector.
The VP urged all economic support agencies to play their part to ensure successful implementation of the leather strategy and paid tribute to development partners for supporting the Government.
In her remarks Industry and Commerce Minister, Dr Sekai Nzenza, said the synergy between industry and commerce and the agriculture sector was critical as these need each other to ensure a successful turnaround of the leather industry value chain. She said leather producers must strive for efficiency and competitiveness that will be felt by consumers who buy their products.
Chairman of the Zimbabwe Leather Development Council, Mr Clement Shoko, gave a synopsis of the state of the leather value chain in the country and highlighted numerous challenges it faces.
These include inadequate financing, poor marketing intelligence, absence of sector specific policies, poor infrastructure and lack of technology and skills, which he hoped will be addressed by the new strategy.
Bulawayo Provincial Minister of State and Devolution Judith Ncube said the implementation of the new leather strategy would transform the city’s economy through increased industrial output going forward.
Lands, Agriculture, Water, Fisheries and Rural Resettlement Minister Dr Anxious Masuka, emphasised strengthening of linkages between farmers and industry saying Vision 2030 must be anchored on households.
Industry and Commerce Deputy Minister, Raj Modi, Minister of State in VP Chiwenga’s office, Evelyn Ndlovu, leather sector captains of industry and senior government officials also attended the event. – Herald