The Sunday Mail
THE Cotton Company of Zimbabwe (Cottco) is undertaking an extensive rebranding exercise and has contracted more than 360 000 farmers this year, amid prospects of a healthy harvest due to good rains. Our reporter, THESEUS SHAMBARE (TS), spoke to Cottco board chairperson Mr Sifelani Jabangwe (SJ) to discuss this and other issues.
TS: Cottco is embarking on a rebranding programme. What necessitated this and what progress has been made to date?
SJ: The rebranding exercise was preceded and informed by a brand audit, which was carried out by an independent consultant with a view to assessing perceptions and measure our brand equity.
The first phase of the rebranding journey started off with a successful launch in August last year, where we unveiled our new logo and strategic intent to our stakeholders.
We did not only refresh our logo and corporate colours but we have improved our internal systems that include how we engage and serve our stakeholders going forward.
Currently, we are in the second phase, where we will soon be going around the country to all cotton-growing areas to engage farmers and enlighten them on the process and the transformation they should expect.
This phase also involves the ambiance at all our premises.
TS: What is the significance of this rebranding for Cottco?
SJ: Rebranding allows an organisation to audit stakeholders’ perceptions given their experience from it.
The results of the audit then inform the action to correct the areas that are not in line with the intended level of service delivery to the stakeholders.
This change may be through retraining of staff and introduction of new processes and procedures in order to enhance services and to demonstrate this transformation.
Changes to the corporate logo and colours will also be effected just like what we have done.
TS: Last year, Cottco was in the news over reports of corruption and some managers have been sidelined from the company over this. What have you done for your company to restore faith and trust among the stakeholders?
SJ: We have since tightened our loss control mechanisms and ensured that all porous and potentially porous areas are plugged.
Stakeholder engagement is critical in restoring confidence in our clients, hence we have segmented our stakeholders, and came up with strategies to deeply and meaningfully engage them individually on our strategic intent going forward.
Corporate governance is also being adhered to sternly and we will be reviewing our processes regularly to ensure compliance and alignment.
No stone will be left unturned; we are working on restoring Cottco’s glory.
TS: This year’s summer cropping season holds bright prospects. What are Cottco’s production targets for this season?
SJ: We believe we are on course in achieving our targets but we are currently undertaking crop assessments countrywide, which will determine the overall output.
TS: There has been an announcement on the increase of the foreign currency component on Cottco’s payments to farmers to 85 percent, which is a positive development.
TS: Will farmers be paid on time?
SJ: Last year, the Government announced a 75 percent US dollar component on cotton farmers’ payments and the rest was in our local currency.
This year, we are standing on 85 percent USD and 15 percent local currency.
We are currently in negotiations with financial institutions to ensure all our financial requirements are met by the time the intake season kicks off.
Our target is to pay farmers their dues as soon as they deliver the crop.
TS: On value addition, what plans are in place for the nation to realise the full potential of cotton?
SJ: The Government is on a beneficiation drive and, as Cottco, we are feeding into that thrust through projects that we have in the pipeline such as the oil-expression plants in Gokwe.
TS: How many ginneries and oil-expression plants have been established nearer to farmers and what are your targets up to 2025 and eventually 2030?
SJ: Cottco has six ginneries currently and plans to increase the number are in the pipeline.
Plans to set up oil-expression plants within cotton-growing areas are currently underway and the proposed projects will generate additional revenue, create employment and support Government’s devolution strategy.
It will also provide cooking oil and stockfeed to the surrounding communities at affordable prices.
TS: You recently signed a memorandum of understanding for export of cotton lint with investors from Belarus. What is the latest on this?
SJ: We are still in discussion with our Belarus counterparts and once we have finalised the deals, an announcement will be made.