FROM June 17 to 19, 2015, the fifth edition of the Annual Buy Local Summit takes place in Victoria Falls, bringing together the public and private sectors. Government will be represented by its chief purse bearer Finance and Economic Development Minister Patrick Chinamasa; Mines and Mining Development Minister Walter Chidhakwa, Industry and Commerce Minister Mike Bimha and ICT and Courier Services Minister Supa Mandiwanzira.
Key private sector players like Mr Winston Chitando, the executive chair of Mimosa Mining Company, and Mr Zwelithini Ndlovu, the chair of Chengetedzai Depository Company, will also be in attendance.
As the country is re-establishing its status as an investor-friendly destination, there are efforts by various stakeholders to come up with effective branding. Much emphasis has been on promoting consumption of locally-produced goods through the Buy Zimbabwe campaign.
The Sunday Mail Business caught up with Buy Zimbabwe chair Mrs Grace Muradzikwa to get an insight into what could be expected at this week’s summit, the first to be held outside Harare.
Q: What really is Buy Zimbabwe? Does it only focus on the consumer, or it is about promoting quality products as well?
A: We are a competitiveness driver with a key objective of ensuring that there is greater preference on the local and regional markets of Zimbabwean produced goods and services. Resultantly, we speak to both issues of consumption and production.
In all this, we seek to ensure that jobs and wealth accrue to this great nation called Zimbabwe. So Buy Zimbabwe operates at three levels: cooperation among and between various industries, commercial bodies and policy makers, and competitiveness and consumption.
Q: There is an outcry from consumers over the pricing structure of local products compared to imports. What is Buy Zimbabwe doing to encourage price competitiveness?
A: While that is generally correct owing to a number of factors that include the use of an ever-appreciating United States dollar against most trading partner currencies and cost of labour, energy etc, it is critical to note that we have goods and services locally that are competitive. The key is to begin with these local champions, learn from their journeys and support them through our various procurement efforts and consumption preferences.
Q: Some companies are presently struggling to retool and recapitalise. Do you think that it would be fair to come up with stringent quality control measures that are likely to scupper their recovery?
A: What must be understood is that Zimbabwean goods are in general of superior quality to imported ones. Where we have been found wanting is in the areas of packaging and pricing. As such, focusing on quality, we have greater benefit to local products than imported ones. In any case, in the long-term, quality wins.
Q: Do you envisage legislation in the near future to support Buy Zimbabwe?
A: We definitively need a local procurement Act. We are currently working vigorously to ensure that it’s attained.
Q: How far have you progressed in mobilising support for the Buy Zimbabwe campaign?
A: When we began this initiative five years back many thought this was just a passing phase. Now we are part and parcel of major policy decisions made in this country. Our membership base has also grown significantly to incorporate most of our major companies in the country. We are now also witnessing not only a greater awareness for the initiative but understanding tool.
Q: Over the years we have seen commendable participation by local companies. Can you tell us what you have done to encourage more participation. How many companies have agreed to be part of Buy Zimbabwe?
A: Our message has been simple and consistent: buy local to create jobs, wealth and pride. Increasingly, we see understanding in that message especially if it is augmented by the efforts of our teams on the ground to engage more, influence policy more and provide critical information that enable local companies to grow and compete better.
Q: Has Government, in any way, pledged resources to make the programme a success?
A: You have to realise that Government has a challenge with its fiscal position. As Buy Zimbabwe, we have opted for more policy support from Government.
Q: Previously, it seems that the Buy Zimbabwe campaign was being driven by businesses. The upcoming local summit has many Government speakers. What do you expect from Government?
A: Without the right policy support we go nowhere. So we definitely need Government actively participating in our discussions. That said, we have a number of businesspeople who are attending this Summit.
Q: What challenges have you encountered so far?
A: Convincing Zimbabweans to put their money where their mouths are. Strange but true.
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