Zimbabwean cross-border traders – who have for the past decade supplied both foodstuffs and clothing to the demand in their native country – have warned that imposing a total ban of imports might backfire.
With the capacity of Zimbabwean companies to increase production remaining doubtful, the traders warned that scores of consumers in our neighboring country are likely to find themselves without food and clothing.
The government of Zimbabwe imposed a total ban on imports of products such as blankets, biscuits, oil and all agricultural products in a bid to support its local producers.
President Robert Gabriel Mugabe and his administration have argued that the continued flooding of imports – some of them believed to be cheap Chinese imports from here and other African countries – are scuppering Zimbabwean industry’s recovery.
However, the cross border traders have insisted that the Zimbabwean industry is still limping from the incapacitating economic meltdown of the past decade and remains severely undercapitalized.
Nhamoinesu Muswere said companies in Zimbabwe are closing on a daily basis. To Muswere, it does not make sense really to impose a total ban on imports because companies in Zimbabwe do not have capacity to produce products sufficient enough to meet the demand.
According to a recently released ZimTrade Export and Manufacturing Capacity Survey for 2013, Muswere said almost 70 per cent of companies in Zimbabwe closed shop in the past decade – a development that resulted in most of the products disappearing from shelves. “For the past decade, Zimbabwe has solely relied on imports mainly from Botswana, South Africa, Zambia and China. Our industry is not producing products needed by the consumers at the moment,” said Muswere, who buys and resells groceries in his native Zimbabwe.
Muswere said the recently imposed total ban on imports would bring back the painful experience that Zimbabweans experienced between 2005 and 2008 where supermarkets had virtually nothing on their shelves.
Another cross-border trader, Oscar Mutungagore said movement of goods between Botswana and Zimbabwe has hit an all time low with both countries looking at protecting their local producers.“But the development might be beneficial to manufacturers and producers in Botswana. For Zimbabwe, the development has got the potential of backfiring,” said Mutungagore, echoing Muswere’s sentiments that Zimbabwean industry does not have the capacity to produce.
According to Statistics Botswana, the trade deficit between Botswana and Zimbabwe continues to widen with revelations that Harare took delivery of goods worth P77.8 million against Gaborone’s exports of P29 974 in January alone.
Over the years, Zimbabweans have been flocking into the country to seek basic foodstuffs and household goods.