Zimbabwe should increase capacity utilization for local manufacturing sector by prioritising domestic investments in value addition and beneficiation, a trade expert said.
United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) Programmes management officer in the African Trade Centre, Batanai Chikweme said this while addressing stakeholders who attended a sensisatisation workshop on the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) Tuesday.
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.
"Prioritising growth of local manufacturing services around beneficiation in mining and agriculture will improve the competitiveness of Zimbabwean products.
"Local manufacturers will be positioned to fully leverage trade opportunities presented by the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) as well as promote sustainable exploitation of natural resources," said Chikweme.
He said harnessing the potential of mining to support spillover manufacturing through alignment of policies to the continental pact as complement was key in the realisation of the US$12 Billion strategy.
"What is going to make a difference is do we have Zimbabweans participating in the creation of that $12 billion industry? Do we have the downward and upward linkages that will then supply the mining sector in terms of grooming our own manufacturing capabilities? The services that fit into manufacturing should really be located here in Zimbabwe.
"The out puts that come from the mining sector should then be processed here in Zimbabwe, that way you will find that the $12 billion dollar investment directly into the mining sector will facilitate the growth of a much bigger spillover industry around the mining sector," said Chikweme.
He added: "It's a long game we must understand that to come up with the feeder industries into the mining sector and then to generate the industries that process the outputs from mining is something that takes time.
"We need to look at where we want to be in 12 years and make sure that we benefit from our mineral resources because they are not going to last there forever so let's design strategies that maximize our benefits from the mining sector."
"It's an initiative to promote African markets so we can facilitate the movement of goods and services within the continent, it (AfCFTA) addresses some of the challenges which made it difficult for African producers to trade within the continent," said Chikweme.
"It is going to make a case for industrialisation 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," he added.