Local companies should invest in branding and packaging to enhance their competitive advantage and penetrate the export markets' profitable business.
This was revealed at the ZimTrade and the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa) workshop convened in the capital this week to promote small businesses' capacity to package.
This convention is a follow up to Comesa - European Union initiative which was convened in 2016 where packaging was identified as one of important areas that needed to be addressed to make attractive and competitive exports.
Zimbabwe has a substantial number of products to offer to the regional and international export market and competitiveness is one of the key enablers for a successful export economy.
Speaking on the sidelines of the workshop, ZimTrade export development manager Mr Tatenda Marume, said he was confident that the project would make strides in covering that missing gap and improve companies' packaging quality.
"We did a survey to identify areas where we can improve competitiveness and the packaging sector was one of the areas we identified where our exports were lagging behind in terms of competitiveness.
"Branding enhancement is required to boost the appeal of our local products to international customers. As ZimTrade, we have a programme that is educating producers and manufacturers on packaging, labelling and branding. It's a module we developed with assistance from the European Union through Comesa.
"Looking from what is coming from other countries such as South Africa, China and the rest of the world, we were also lagging behind in terms of information asymmetry between the producing and packaging companies.
"One of recommendations that came from that programme was to capacitate SMEs and our exporter base with the knowledge on packaging so that they can improve their capacity in terms of packaging," said Mr Marume.
Comesa's project manager in Zimbabwe, Mr Fambaoga Myambo, said the programme was a step further from the first stage where they were capacitating SMEs on the supply side.
Mr Myambo said, "All along we have been supporting SMEs on the supply side and we have managed to capacitate some of them. They are now able to produce the right products, for instance, in the leather and clothing sectors.
"Now, in order for them to be in the export market, they cannot run away from packaging. As Comesa, in partnership with European Union, we have brought in some consultants specialising in packaging to enhance their competitiveness beyond Zimbabwe's borders."
The country remains challenged with primal branding standards which compromise the attractiveness of local produce in regional and international markets, especially given the fast paced trends in the branding and packaging segment.
ZimTrade has been on a drive to develop branding standards obtaining from local products to improve local products competitiveness and visibility on the international market.