‘Zim should be self-sufficient’

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ZIMBABWE should come up with new policies to ensure that the country is self-sufficient in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, which has seen several countries shutting down their borders to control the virus, analysts have said.

The lockdowns being implemented across the world to combat the spread of the virus that has affected over 2,5 million people have resulted in supply chain bottlenecks, causing basic commodity and raw material shortages in Zimbabwe — a country that relies heavily on imports for survival.

Economist John Robertson said Zimbabwe’s fragile economy can become self-sufficient in the next few years if government starts implementing policies that allow farmers and other investors to increase production.

“This crisis should help us to focus on what’s needed for us to be self-sufficient again. We have the necessary skills, resources, knowledge and the money —banks have billions of dollars they can lend to corporates and individuals to boost production,” he said during an online forum organised by Global Renaissance Investment.

Robertson said Zimbabwe and other African governments should respect property rights and uphold the rule of law to encourage investor participation in various sectors of the economy.

Speaking on the same platform, industrialist Busisa Moyo said the country was being haunted by policy missteps of the past, which saw Zimbabwe’s debt ballooning to unmanageable levels.

“We need a stimulus package to help us boost production, but there are no investors or lenders who are willing to inject fresh capital because of what happened in the past and this presents a very difficult situation for us,” he said.

The United Refineries chief executive and former Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries president also added that there was need for a rethink on localising various industries in the southern African region.

The latest development comes at a time African countries were moving to promote trade within the continent.
In 2018, heads of state signed the African Continental Free Trade Area agreement which sought to pave way for the continent — with 1,2 billion people and a cumulative GDP of $2,5 trillion — to become the world’s largest common market.

Ngoni Dzirutwe, the GRI chief executive, said Africa should focus on solidifying a change in consciousness that could lead to states becoming more self-sufficient.

He argued that while policy changes and economic development are areas of high priority, Africa was still “overly reliant on trade deals and support from our colonial past”.

“To enable these objectives, governments, business and civil society in Africa must begin to implement plans aimed at growing their economies. This will be crucial to positioning the continent as an investment destination while developing the necessary skills and competencies to beneficiate our collective natural resources,” he said.

Yamkela Makupula, the Diaz Reus Africa chief executive, said the Covid-19 pandemic has forced Africa to review the way it does business.

“We need to focus on the pan-African trade deal, encouraging African nations to work together as a collective so we can rise above the economic decimation the pandemic will bring. Rather than seeing one another as rivals, African nations must work together, using and pooling our abundant resources, skills and abilities. This is the only way we can change the way the world sees Africa,” she said.

Makupula added that African governments will have to invest in technology and infrastructure, reduce red tape and simplify trade in Africa if the continent is to be part of a competitive global economy.

“Ports, infrastructure links and communication technology have to be prioritised both at the AU level and the regional level, allowing Africans to easily share labour, capital, goods and services,” she said.

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