Zimbabwe must address low capacity utilization in small to medium industries to position itself for opportunities provided by the African Continental Free Trade Area, a trade expert has said.
United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) program management officer in the African Trade and Policy Centre, Batanai Chikweme said under current constricted production capacity, Zimbabwean products will not be competitive on the continental market.
He urged government to focus on prioritizing growth of local manufacturing services, aligning monetary and fiscal policies as well as providing incentives for local producers.
Chikweme however, said the readiness can be gauged through the capacity of local SMEs to leverage on the immense opportunities provided by free access to a continental market.
"Zimbabwe is not yet ready to participate meaningfully in the FTA, but the bigger issue is alignment of policies, at government level, we must have macroeconomic policies that are self-reinforcing, robust monetary and fiscal policies.
"The job of priming this country for readiness lies on the SMEs to ensure that this program is a success, the agreement is already there and we have to be ready to meaningfully participate in the trade pact.
"We might not be ready as a country but the bigger question is how do we get ready because we have to leverage the immense opportunities that are there for us as a county," said Chikweme.
He added, "Government should also come up with incentives for import and exports, all these policies should be primed to pull in the same direction so that we position the Zimbabwean producer to compete globally."
AfCFTA brings together 54 of the 55 African Union nations in a trade pact to reduce barriers to imports and exports which presents access to the US$3.5 trillion continental market of over a billion-people.
The free trade agreement will address barriers, put in place incentives for continental trade in Africa and also allow small to medium enterprises to access a bigger market and gain from economies of scale to facilitate industrialization.
"It's an initiative to promote African markets so we can facilitate the movement of goods and services within the continent, it (AfCFTA) address some of the challenges which made it difficult for African producers to trade within the continent
"It is going to make a case for industrialization for countries such as ours (Zimbabwe) because we have now access to a market of more than 1.3 billion people and more than US$3.5 trillion in terms of combined GDP of the 55 countries that are part of the agreement.