Ndola — ZIMBABWE is seeking to increase exports to Zambia, but local companies need to work on improving the quality of their products to achieve a competitive advantage over regional goods, a Government official has said.
Industry and Commerce deputy director of bilateral trade relations Ms Constance Zhanje said this on the sidelines of the Zambia International Trade Fair on Wednesday.
She added that the country lost a significant share of the Zambian market during the height of economic challenges when production levels in many companies contracted significantly.
But with the economy now on a recovery path, having registered growth for three consecutive years since dollarisation in 2009, companies should become more innovative to make their products more attractive not only to Zambia, but to Sadc and the Common Market for East and Southern Africa.
More than 15 Zimbabwean companies are among 800 exhibitors showcasing their products and services at this year's edition of the ZITF, which is being held under the theme "Creating Synergies Beyond Borders".
"Because of the challenges that we faced, our market share in Zambia was eroded. We have now regained that market and we are taking this trade fair as an opportunity to consolidate Zimbabwe's presence on the Zambian market and this is also in line with our industrial and trade policies, which seek to grow exports," said Ms Zhanje.
While Zimbabwe's economy is recovering following successive recessions which saw the economy contracting by 40 percent between 2000 and 2008, limited lines of credit have slowed the recovery of companies.
Many local products have remained uncompetitive compared to other regional goods as most local firms continue operating below their potential while the use of old
technology renders local goods less attractive.
In 2010, Zimbabwe exported goods to Zambia worth about US$74 million, according to Comtrade, a United Nations statistics data guide. In 2004 and 2005, Zimbabwe's exports to Zambia were valued at US$71,6 million and US$77,3 million respectively.
Interestingly, in 2006, when Zimbabwe posted a historic record in exports to Comesa, more than 50 percent (about US$1,64 billion) went to Zambia.
Although Zimbabwe's exports to Comesa fell in subsequent years, Zambia still received the lion's share. In 2007, 2008 and 2009, exports to Zambia stood at US$124,4 million, US$70,1 million, US$82,6 million, respectively.
Major exports to Zambia include distillation products, building material, fuels, tobacco, salt, fish and paper products.
Ms Zhanje said the creation of a One-Stop Border Post at Chirundu between Zimbabwe and Zambia has reduced trade barriers and costs of trade, making it attractive for local companies to trade with Zambia and other countries in Central and East Africa.
Chirundu is the gateway to Central and East Africa and handles high volumes of commercial trucks, with an average of 268 trucks per day, according to the African Development Bank.
Zimbabwean companies that are exhibiting include Hwange Colliery Company Limited, PG subsidiary Zimtile Limited, Olivine Industries, Zimbabwe Fertiliser Company, Dairibord, Grain Marketing Board, National Blankets, Zimbabwe Textiles, Surface Investments and some small to medium enterprises.
Hwange spokesperson Mr Burzil Dube said Zambia's economy was expanding, driven by its copper industry, hence the need to improve the company's visibility.
"We have been participating for the past four years and this has helped us expand and to consolidate our market base. Zambia's economy is growing, largely driven by its copper industry and as coal miners, this makes Zambia one of our best markets.
"This is also in line with our drive to increase exports not only here in Zambia, but also to countries such as Malawi, DRC and Botswana where we already export our products. We will also start exporting to Asian countries, particularly to India where the company has already secured substantial orders for various coal products," said Mr Dube.