The Herald (Harare)

Zimbabwe: Let's Take a Leaf From Mauritius Success

opinion

This year has been very eventful in business. Of particular mention is the last quarter of the year which put the icing on this year's highlights. Headlines for significant challenges point to significant progress. Corporate strategic sessions, capacity building workshops, risk analysis forums, among other events were held at various levels to build companies and restore confidence and strength in the economy. Did these give the returns?

Manufacturing sector

The year 2012 was one which was hardest hit by imported competitor products that were acquired on concessionary terms that local manufacturers could not match. According to the CZI Manufacturing Sector Survey, the manufacturing sector has been under immense threat from external products that have more efficient production processes, cheap labour and cheaper raw materials.

Companies faced a plethora of challenges from the obsolete equipment, to high interest rates, to access basic utilities -- indeed 2012 was not an easy year to do business. Data obtained from NSSA gave indications that approximately 300 manufacturing companies closed shop or shed off parts of their production since dollarisation. I have known of businesses that have recorded major successes by commencing product rationalisation exercise where the focus is on product lines that give high turnover and reasonable margins. Some have tried leveraging on procurement strategies that help improve product competitiveness.

Business Exchanges

Last month, a lot of debut exchange forums first time meetings were held -- of significance was the Business Ethics Symposium. It follows that 2013 should be the year for implementation of those meetings. My plea is not to let them turn into empty coffee and tea meetings; they should be converted into substantial business exchanges. Indeed, 2012 was eventful in gatherings -- even "Your Highness" made time to attend a Shoe Expo (ladies love shoes), wedding expos and a couple of food fairs.

Exhibitions present a range of benefits like no other marketing instrument in this form and connection. They are unique platforms to develop and cherish customer relations; they offer possibilities of sales as well as positioning of company and product brands. They have potential to create networks between all relevant market participants in a way that cannot be reached by companies on their own. Furthermore, they also act internally by concentrating all marketing activities in a purposeful way.

Presenting the 2013 National Budget, Finance Mister Tendai Biti revealed that projected economic growth is expected to slow down from the previously predicted 9,4 percent to 4,4 percent. It was reported that production targets were missed in agriculture, a sector believed to be a key pillar in Zimbabwe's economy. The agriculture sector bears its success on favourable rainfall patterns, availability of inputs -- fertilisers, seeds and equipment availability at suitable prices. So if you are a business in this industry, it is important to create survival options and probably avoid putting all your eggs in one basket.

The National MDGs Taskforce and the Ministerial Social Services Committee prioritised the following: MDG 1 on ending poverty and hunger; MDG 2 on achieving universal education; MDG 4 on child health; and MDG 5 on maternal health.

These can be used in formulating corporate social responsibility policies.

One of my concerns as a businessperson is the reports that industry capacity utilisation dropped from an average of 57,2 percent last year to 44,5 percent.

These indicators are good enough to ring alarm bells -- are we not using methods and formulas that do not apply to our environment? It would sound empty -- but take a nation like Mauritius that have never watered a cotton field but are reported to have been "one of the biggest exporters of textiles and garments of Sub-Saharan Africa for the past 40 years".

I am reliably informed that Mauritius has never mined diamonds ever, yet, they export cut diamonds and jewellery.

Currently, Mauritius exports to the USA are well over US$3 billion. My take is that we need a knowledge-based economy which creates knowledge networks and national innovation systems. We need to start indentifying best practices for an information society.

You can never predict the future, but you can plan for it. A toast to the best of successes and good hunting in the year 2013.

Till next week, May God richly bless you!

Shelter Chieza is an advisor in management issues.

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