LACK of a comprehensive export policy and delays in concluding trade deals are undermining efforts to boost exports, industrialists said this week. They said government was slow to make crucial d
ecisions on trade agreements. They said unlike South Africa whose delegations on trade missions always included business executives and labour, Zimbabwe’s business environment was hostile.
In interviews, outgoing Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries president Anthony Mandiwanza and Zimbabwe National Chamber of Commerce president Luxon Zembe said foreign currency constraints and an unfavourable country profile had contributed to the decline in exports.
Mandiwanza, who is also Dairibord Zimbabwe chief executive officer, said there was need for government to formulate a comprehensive export policy that would, among other things, address the issue of incentives, subsidies and rebates for exporters.
“We are expected to compete in the region against companies whose exports are heavily subsidised while we are operating in an environment that is not conducive for business,” Mandiwanza said.
“The government must address the full manufacturing value chain from supply and processing to finished products before we can talk about exports. The manufacturing chain is not at full throttle due to macro-economic problems in the country,” said Mandiwanza.
South Africa, for instance, has established, through the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), the Export Marketing and Investment Assistance Scheme to partially compensate exporters for costs incurred in respect of activities aimed at developing export markets for South African products.
The DTI offers sector specific assistance to industries that seek to develop new export markets, broaden the export base and stimulate the participation of small to medium enterprises in the export sector.
On financial assistance, the DTI provides a grant of R50 000 for the establishment of an export council, a non-profit company that serves to represent the development and promotional objectives of a particular industry on a national level.
The DTI also funds the export councils up to a maximum of R500 000 annually matching membership income for the purpose of operational costs.
The industrialists say government has failed to provide any of these support mechanisms for exporters despite heavy lobbying from the business community.
Zembe said politicians had failed business as “government delegations on trade missions exclude business compared to the South Africans who move as a team”.
“We are failing to work as a team when engaging in trade negotiations and this weakens our position in the region,” said Zembe.