The Sunday Mail
Senior Business Reporter
AS Zimbabwe and South Africa prepare to further deepen trade, investment and diplomatic relations this week, local industry has tabled its wish-list for consideration by Pretoria.
Industrialists believe that memorandums of understanding (MoUs) that will be signed on Tuesday during the third session of the Bi-National Commission (BNC) should help remove barriers to trade and promote co-operation in livestock breeding and establishing a platinum refinery.
Senior government officials from South Africa arrived in Harare on Wednesday for meetings that ran from Thursday to Friday.
A ministerial meeting is scheduled for tomorrow, before Presidents Emmerson Mnangagwa and Cyril Ramaphosa headline the Zimbabwe-South Africa BNC on Tuesday.
National Business Council of Zimbabwe (NBCZ) president Mr Langton Mabhanga told The Sunday Mail Business that the Zimbabwe-South Africa BNC was critical as both countries shared a common resolve to pull their economies out of “internal and external debts”.
The two countries, he said, should “attend to the challenges of energy, mineral exploitation and optimisation, agriculture and manufacturing” to potentially create a common ground for engagement.
“There will be need for the two economies to share notes on the strategic support that Zimbabwe will require to build its own platinum refinery.
“The current toll-refining arrangement being done by individual mines might not be sustainable and inconsistent with Agenda 2063 and the vision and thrust of President Mnangagwa on industrialisation and beneficiation,” said Mr Mabhanga.
He said there was need for robust engagement to remove barriers to trade, including crafting a trade pact to promote existing and new manufacturing industries in Zimbabwe.
“There is scope for us to continue improving productivity and competitiveness.
“The two trade partners need each other, and both will require to leverage on sound bilateral relations for mutual benefit.
“It will be strategic that the huge investment of resources by Zimbabwe in building world-class and competitive education and training (infrastructure) that have supported Africa and beyond should be recognised as a tradable comparative advantage, given the human capital resources that Zimbabwe has contributed.
“Agricultural research and development, including livestock breeding and bio-security protocols, would make sound strategic concern to take in the bilateral discourse, especially in resolving the productivity gaps in our agro-production and growing our livestock national herd — (focusing on) cattle, sheep, piggery and poultry — in which South Africa has covered quite some ground,” he said.
Similarly, other business lobby groups see significant potential and opportunities for business with South Africa.
Last week, Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries (CZI) president Mr Sifelani Jabangwe said bilateral agreements with Pretoria could help with the much-needed leverage to further penetrate the lucrative South African market, as the two countries “share value chains”.
“South Africa is the biggest economy in Sub-Saharan Africa.
“Now, the biggest market is actually close to us, and with a population of over 50 million people, that is a huge market, especially with their high per capita income.
“So we expect the Bi-National Commission to help local entrepreneurs to penetrate that market,” he said.
Presidential Advisory Council (PAC) facilitator and industrialist Mr Joe Mutizwa said last week it was critical for Zimbabwe to forge diplomatic and economic ties with the rest of Sadc countries if it was to build an “economic fortress”, considering the hostility it faces from Western countries.
On Tuesday, the United States government extended sanctions on imposed on Zimbabwe — through the Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act (Zdera) — by a further 12 months ostensibly because the country continues to pose an “unusual and extraordinary” threat to US foreign policy.
This week’s BNC, which is the highest bilateral framework of cooperation between the two sister republics of Zimbabwe and South Africa, follows the recent highly successful inaugural BNC with Botswana.
Harare and Gaborone inked six major agreements and MoUs in areas of energy, mining, extradition, diplomacy and cooperation in the field of science and technology.
Botswana also extended a BWP1 billion credit facility to help Botswanan company ratchet up investments into Zimbabwe.