The Herald (Harare)

20 October 2011

Zimbabwe: Buy Local Campaign Noble

It is noble to promote Zimbabwean manufactured products, not only destined for local shops but also for the export market.

When I took my car for repairs in Msasa industrial area, the garage owner told me about a small factory that makes men and women's shoes housed adjacent to his garage. I visited the factory and saw the shoes of quality that are manufactured by the company.

I ordered a pair made according to my specifications. Many people cannot believe that the shoes were made in Zimbabwe. I paid US$40 for the pair of shoes.

I was happy to learn that the factory has a shop in the Central Business District in Harare. I was, however, disappointed that the shoes are not being exported into the region. Not only that, the factory should get better machinery to increase production and to improve the quality of the shoes at the same time.

I have a British friend who is running a shoe factory outside London. He inherited the shoe factory from his father.

He trained as an engineer and to make sure that the factory remains in production, his son graduated with a degree in engineering. This small British family factory is now exporting quality shoes to markets outside the UK.

There may be some factories in Zimbabwe that require better machinery in order to produce quality goods that could compete with the imported products.

Another problem is that most goods sold in our supermarkets are imported under the franchise system. These goods are being manufactured mainly in South Africa. The franchise system promotes job creation in South Africa while the only jobs in Zimbabwe are in the distribution and selling of the imported products.

But the small-scale business entrepreneurs are manufacturing building materials such as, doorframes, window frames, gutters etc in unhygienic conditions, mainly in the high-density areas. These products are the main stay of materials used to build houses and other structures in most areas.

It is not asking too much to see that these small factories are provided with water, electricity and sanitation. The country should not just pay lip service to the idea of buying locally produced goods.

We must be seen to provide the necessary capital and services to those factories that are playing a major role in producing products locally.

These products must be able to compete with those that may be imported. Unless this policy of improving the quality of products is adopted, it would be very difficult to promote or even persuade the people to buy local products.

Most of the products must be assembled in Zimbabwe if there is no local expertise to manufacture such highly electronic items.

China and India require the factories to produce such high quality goods for their market to be set up in their countries. In turn, those same factories go on to produce products for the export market while transferring technology and skills to their countries.

Buy Zimbabwe campaign is the route to take to promote job creation and to retain skills in the country.

The buying and selling activities will not develop the country in the long run. We shall only produce skills for export instead of using our education system for the transfer of technology for use in our factories manned by locals.

A recent visit to a textile company cheered my heart. The factory was at full throttle making goods for the local market and for export.

I was told that the fine cotton they use is imported because the factories that used to make it are long closed. There were bales of clothes everywhere ready for export especially to Europe and the Sadc region.

On being asked how they could compete with cheap clothes from Asian countries, the MD said that, at first people were rushing to buy the cheap imported items, but now, they are opting for quality.

Before, I left the factory, I had bought three items of high quality cotton. This to me was my way of supporting the Buy Zimbabwe Campaign.

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