The Sunday Mail
THE Government’s re-engagement agenda, coupled with trade initiatives driven by agencies and stakeholders, has created a promising outlook for local exports in 2023.
According to the ZimTrade Trade Outlook, exports grew by 9,2 percent from US$5,4 billion in January-November 2021 to US$5,9 billion over the same period in 2022.
This increase in exports can be attributed to various efforts made by the Government, along with related agencies like ZimTrade, to facilitate export promotional activities such as outward missions and participation at various trade fairs.
These activities have raised the profile of Zimbabwean products in markets around the world.
Businesspeople across Zimbabwe now have the opportunity to take advantage of this positive trend and expand their products into traditional and non-traditional markets.
Exports to Asian and European markets have grown as a result.
For example, the Netherlands, which is among Zimbabwe’s top 10 export destinations, witnessed a marked increase in exports from US$5,8 million in January-November 2021 to US$45 million over the same period in 2022.
When President Mnangagwa launched the Zimbabwe National Trade Policy and the National Export Promotion Strategy (2019-2023), it was premised on diversification of export markets, which saw an acceleration of trade promotion activities in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), among other countries.
This included participation at the Dubai Expo 2020, as well as trade promotion events such as the Zimbabwe-Dubai Business Forum and an outward mission to the UAE.
UAE is now the second-biggest export destination for Zimbabwean exports.
Exports to UAE increased from US$1,47 billion in 2021 to US$1,96 billion in January-November 2022.
With the continued demand for organic and fresh produce in countries like Europe and the Middle East, there is great potential for local exporters to expand.
There is also a high likelihood that exporters might surpass the US$7 billion mark in 2023.
Continued interest in Zimbabwean goods has encouraged further market surveys in the Middle East.
This year, ZimTrade will be conducting a market scan in Saudi Arabia to explore more export opportunities for local products.
Zimbabwe will also double down on fostering trade and increasing availability of local products in different markets such as China, Malaysia and Egypt.
As a net importer that boasts the world’s largest population at over one billion people, China is becoming one of Zimbabwe’s top export destinations.
Currently, China is the third-largest importer of Zimbabwean goods.
In 2022, a citrus protocol was signed between the two countries.
This has given local companies the ability to export citrus to China, one of the biggest consumers of the produce.
This year, Zimbabwe is working towards maximising this opening and capitalising on mutually beneficial trade opportunities.
ZimTrade, in conjunction with the Zimbabwe Investment and Development Agency (ZIDA) and the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority (ZTA), will be organising a Zimbabwe-China Business Forum, which will focus on promoting Zimbabwe’s trade, tourism and investment opportunities.
Also, Africa is a viable export destination.
With the launch of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA ), businesses have easier access to non-traditional markets on the continent that are worth exploring.
At the recently concluded World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, AfCFTA secretary-general Wamkele Mene highlighted four key sectors that offer huge opportunities — the automotive industry, agriculture and agro-processing, and pharmaceuticals, as well as transportation and logistics.
Local demand for goods and services within these sectors is currently being met through relatively high import costs, making it ideal for businesses to participate in regional value chains.
As one of the world’s largest free trade areas, the AfCFTA provides a great opportunity for businesses to capitalise on.
This year, we will see more initiatives channelled towards increasing exports in West Africa.
For example, Nigeria is one of the most populous countries in Africa and offers massive opportunities for local companies.
As such, ZimTrade will be conducting a market survey to identify export opportunities and to better understand the market.
Outward missions have played a significant role in accelerating trade.
Plans are underway to link local companies with buyers, and foster business relationships that lead to increased exports.
After a market survey done in Ghana last year, ZimTrade will be holding an outward mission, taking businesses to the West African country for assessment.
Other outward missions will also target Kenya, Namibia, DRC, Zambia and Mozambique.
While the current growth in exports is a good sign, it is critical to maintain sustainable export growth.
And inclusivity is key to achieving sustainable export growth.
Further, capacity development initiatives that empower businesses will guarantee steady foreign currency income for the country.
ZimTrade, through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, will continue to spearhead programmes that integrate previously marginalised groups in the export business.
Internationally acclaimed programmes like the Eagles Nest Youth Export Incubator have opened up opportunities for youth-owned businesses to contribute to national exports through capacity building and knowledge exchange.
Similarly, a focus on the development of provincial clusters has not only ensured that we leverage on Zimbabwe’s natural endowments for export, but has also allowed smallholder farmers across the country to contribute to national exports.
A good example of this is the ZimTrade Ndiyadzo pilot project that saw over 40 smallholder farmers getting organic certification to export pineapples to Europe.
This project is expected to continue this year, with 200 smallholder farmers added to the programme.
Such projects are meant to ensure international certification compliance among the smallholder farmers so that they also tap into the high-end export market.
With the right support and guidance, Zimbabwean businesses can continue to experience positive results in the years to come.
Allan Majuru is the ZimTrade’s chief executive officer