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‘Zim firms need to step up’

PHILLIMON MHLANGA IN VICTORIA FALLS

Industry and Commerce minister, Mangaliso Ndlovu has implored local companies to step up and exploit opportunities presented by the Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).

When the AfCFTA was formed five years ago, it was anticipated that the trading bloc would bring together  over 1.3bn  people and generate US$3.4 trillion in gross domestic product.

“…the World Bank did a study and the findings are very interesting.

They (World Bank) say there are two countries that stand to benefit from AfCFTA. And they named Zimbabwe and Ivory Coast.

I am yet to reflect whether we are ready to benefit from that or not,” Ndhlovu told business executives attending the on-going CEO Africa Roundtable conference in the resort town of Victoria Falls.

He added: “But, what I intend to see is that our private sector needs to step up. Sometimes, we enjoy over protection, and we end up relaxing and not seeking to improve our competitiveness.”

Member countries of the African Union agreed to eliminate tariffs of most goods, liberalise trade of key services, address non-tariff obstacles to intraregional trade and eventually create a continental single market with free movement of labour and capital.

In terms of the numbers of participating countries, which is 54 member States, AfCFTA  is set to be the world’s largest free trade area.

Minister Ndhlovu’s remarks followed revelations made a few weeks ago  by the Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries (CZI), the  country’s largest business lobby group, which stated that over half of Zimbabwe’s industries were not ready to join the AfCFTA, mostly because of the difficult working conditions.

Local companies are battling skyrocketing costs of raw materials, currency volatility and crippling power cuts, among many other problems. Zimbabwe is also overregulated compared to other countries. Such a harsh operating environment does not favour them to be competitive


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