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Zim lifts ban on imported goods -F/town businesses look set for fresh boost

Businesses in the Francistown area look set to get a fresh boost after the Zimbabwean government announced its decision to lift the ban on imported goods following pressure from its trading partners in the region.

Most businesses in Francistown and the better part of Botswana were hit hard by import controls introduced by Zimbabwe a year ago to boost its ailing industries.

Zimbabwe’s Industry and Commerce Minister, Mike Bimha, said the ban had achieved its aims and the government would come up with other means to ensure industries continued to gain from the successes brought by the ban.

Mid last year, the Zimbabwean government enforced Statutory Instrument 64 of 2016, which prohibited importation of several products, which they argued, were also being produced in their country.

“To address the threat of retaliation from our trading partners, the government will replace the import management programme with a local content policy,” Bimha told Voice Money in a telephone interview from Harare, Zimbabwe.

The pronunciation has become sweet music to the ears of traders in Francistown and the surrounding areas.

Retail shop operators in Francistown and the surrounding areas endured an economically difficult year since the implementation of the import ban last year.

A random survey conducted by Voice Money in and around Francistown has established that the decision by the Zimbabwean government to lift the import ban is a welcome development to many business operators.

“It is sweet music to our ears,” said an Indian merchant only identified as Fayez who sells electrical gadgets and bedding which he gets from India, China and other Asian countries.

“Zimbabwean buyers are our mainstay. Without them, it is not good as we are out of business. So the return of Zimbabwean customers is good news to us,” said Fayez, adding that he was on the verge of closing his retail outlet.

Fayez added: “Since last year June, it was difficult to have a daily taking of more than P150. But with the return of Zimbabwean buyers, my daily taking is going up definitely. I am no longer closing my shop.”

Supermarkets such as Pick N’ Pay, Choppies, Spar and other retail shops have since started realizing an upsurge in sales. Managers at the retail told this publication that sales are picking up and could not directly link the upsurge to the lifting of the import ban.

“I have learnt about the lifting of the import ban by Zimbabwean authorities. And customers driving Zimbabwean registered vehicles have been frequenting our shop. But I think it is too early to comment on the development,” said a Choppies manager who refused to be identified.

In a statement, South African Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SACCI) welcomed the lifting of the ban, saying it would go a long way in increasing intra-Africa trade.

SACCI president Zeph Ndlovu said intra-Africa trade was at a low and needed to be bolstered.

Bimha revealed that the ban triggered a lot of challenges, including continued appetite for imports by consumers, poor quality and delays in delivery of goods by the local producers.