South Africa trade missions yet to benefit Zimbabwe

Mzwandile Masina ANC BBC screengrab

South Africa’s Deputy Minister of Trade and Industry, Mzwandile Masina

BULAWAYO — Annual South African investment and trade missions into the country have so far had no meaningful benefits for Zimbabwe, observers have said.
Since 2009, Zimbabwe’s biggest trading partner has brought into the country business delegations in search of opportunities.
Last week, South Africa’s Deputy Minister of Trade and Industry, Mzwandile Masina, led a business delegation consisting of 37 companies drawn from various economic sectors into the cities of Harare, Bulawayo and Gweru.
As has been the norm, South African business people promised to invest into the country especially in the manufacturing sector, with Masina saying South Africa would assist Zimbabwean firms with re-tooling in order to improve productivity. Particular emphasis was made on resuscitating defunct industries in the second largest city of Bulawayo, which has been hit by massive de-industrialisation.
The country’s manufacturing sector has continued to decline due to an influx of cheap imports from South Africa.
Capacity utilisation in the manufacturing sector is at 34,3 percent down from 36,5 percent in 2014.
Martin Moyo, the Bulawayo mayor, told the Financial Gazette’s Companies & Markets that despite Bulawayo’s proximity to South Africa, and the city’s twinning arrangements with Durban and Polokwane, it was yet to receive meaningful investment from the country.
“Unfortunately, I would say there is no tangible investment from South Africa that has taken place in the city,” he said.
Moyo said since he came into office in 2013, his office has hosted a number of business delegations from the neighbouring country, but that has not translated into investment on the ground.
Harare mayor, Bernard Manyenyeni, however said some companies in the capital had signed agreements with South African firms over the years.
But he could not mention any significant investment that had come into the country as a result of the South African investment and trade missions.
Trade statistics provided by the Zimbabwe Statistical Agency are also telling. Trade in 2015 was at US$4,2 billion and largely skewed in favour of South Africa.
ZimTrade chief executive officer, Sithembile Pilime, told the South Africa delegation in Harare that there was need for the neighbouring country to increase access to its markets by Zimbabwean companies.
Economist, Prosper Chitambara, said nothing significant in terms of investment had taken place since the trade missions started.
The Zimbabwe National Chamber of Commerce president, Davison Norupiri, said although not much had been realised from previous engagements with South Africa, he was confident that something would materialise from the recent mission as Africa’s second biggest economy was feeling the pinch from its weak currency.
“We welcome the South Africans especially if they can ride on the backdrop of the rand which is weak at the moment,” Norupiri said.
He explained that this year’s investment initiative had also allowed South African investors to put their eggs in different baskets.
Norupiri said it was important that Zimbabwe remained competitive, while also finalising the ease of doing business to ensure foreign direct investment inflows trickle into the country after business engagements such as the one with the South Africa.
The Association of Business in Zimbabwe chief executive officer, Lucky Mlilo, said while the South African investment and trade initiatives may not have translated into notable investment, they had received individual reports from companies who have benefitted from partnerships.

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