Export opportunities in the Midlands
The Sunday Post
THE current development agenda focuses on increasing exports, especially of value-added products.
Thus, the export community becomes an important pillar for the goal of a prosperous and capable middle-income economy by 2030.
During the ZimTrade Annual Exporters Conference held in Harare recently, President Mnangagwa – in a speech read on his behalf by Finance and Economic Development Minister Professor Mthuli Ncube – told exporters they had a bigger role to play in boosting foreign exchange earnings and Jobs in the country would have to play creation and technology transfer.
As part of efforts to expand the country’s export business base, the government has prioritized decentralization.
President Mnangagwa recently stated the importance of decentralization to support exports: “The need to establish economic independence at the district level is paramount and this integrative approach ensures that the country’s exports are managed to the fullest extent of the country’s capabilities be broadly diversified across the country. The success of our employees at the district level is the collective success of all of us at the national level.”
Under the new approach, provinces are expected to identify products and services unique to them that could be developed for export.
And to identify such products and services, ZimTrade — the country’s trade development and promotion organization — conducted surveys in every province.
The Midlands survey concluded that sectors such as agriculture, mining, manufacturing and services could be used to boost exports.
The capital of the Midlands province has a predominantly urban population and offers viable economic activities in sectors such as agriculture, leather, manufacturing, mining, engineering and education.
Gweru is home to Zimbabwe’s largest shoe company, Bata, and this could easily support a strong leather cluster in the province, which in turn could transform the district into a shoe manufacturing and export hub in southern Africa.
There is huge potential for exporting shoes and other leather products to regional markets such as Zambia, Mozambique, Malawi and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).
In addition, the district has potential for the export of steel products.
Other manufacturing activities that could bring quick profits on the export front are weaving and textiles, apparel and fast-moving consumer goods (FMCGs).
Gokwe North and South
The most common economic activity in Gokwe North and South districts is agriculture, with most small farmers specializing in cotton production.
However, some farmers are increasingly tapping into honey production.
Even more value can be unlocked when cotton adds value.
This could create more jobs and lead to better incomes for farmers, including improved livelihoods.
There are also new products such as chillies and dried fruits that could provide alternative export opportunities for rural communities in Gokwe.
For honey, regional markets that don’t require certifications could provide a soft landing.
In order to quickly develop honey export opportunities, capacity-building measures are needed so that farmers can produce enough quantities needed by buyers in regional markets.
The most common economic activities that could support export prospects in Chirumhan are mining and agriculture.
Most of the small farmers in the district have experience and knowledge in the production of small grains such as bambara nuts (Nyimo/Indlubu), ground nuts, sorghum and rapoko and these could be destined for export as international demand increases.
For example, Bambara nuts are not complicated to grow and can thrive in many soils, allowing Chirumhanzu to develop an export cluster around the produce and other small grains and nuts.
As other horticultural products such as onions and tomatoes are grown in the district, value-added activities such as canned food will allow farmers to preserve value and gain access to export markets.
This is a center for agricultural, manufacturing and mining activities, with low-hanging fruit in products such as steel.
The largest steelworks, Steelmakers, is located at Redcliff, near Kwekwe, the district capital.
The district contains many large and small mines and several large steel mills.
It has the potential to become a steel export center in the province.
In terms of agriculture, the district produces chillies, tomatoes, cucumbers and green peppers that can be exported.
Manufacturing economic activities include agricultural food processing, where the district already produces canned vegetables for the local market.
With increased production, the market could expand to countries in the region such as Angola, Botswana, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Mozambique.
Mining and small grain production are important economic activities in the district.
However, efforts have been made to boost the production of fresh vegetables and fruits.
The district’s export potential lies in the production of horticultural products such as tomatoes, cabbage and butternuts, all of which are in high demand in regional markets such as Botswana.
However, in order to be able to export successfully, the focus must be on capacity skills for smallholders.
This includes training in agronomy, post-harvest handling and cold chain management.
Zvishavane and Shurugwi districts
These two districts in the Midlands province have large deposits of minerals such as platinum and gold.
Value creation and processing can thus increase export earnings.
The other profitable economic activity for export markets in the districts is agriculture, although production is still small.
What is encouraging, however, is that the districts have seen an increase in smallholder farmers in recent years, most of whom have only a limited connection to export markets.
But irrigation programs have been successful in exports, with buyers coming from Francistown in Botswana to buy vegetables like kale/canola.
Some of the products with export potential that can be produced in the districts are sweet potatoes, carrots, peas, baby squash and cucumbers.
To be successful, small farmers need to be integrated into the lucrative export market.
Also, their products need to be consolidated for destinations like the Netherlands, the UK and China that require large volumes.
To achieve this, a concerted effort must be made to establish group cohesion.
Allan Majuru is CEO of ZimTrade