TRADE development and promotion agency, ZimTrade, says increased engagement with regional markets is critical as the country explores opportunities for local products following the operationalisation of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).
Trading under the historic trade regime began on January 1 this year and is seen as significant stride towards continental economic integration.
In a latest update ZimTrade said it was conducting a market survey in Tanzania, while a pre-mission assessment of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) market would be undertaken next week.
"Following the commencement of trade under the African Continental Free Trade Area in January this year, ZimTrade is increasing its engagements with regional markets to explore opportunities for local products and services," said the agency.
"ZimTrade is currently conducting a market survey in Tanzania, running from 12-23 April and a pre-mission assessment in Democratic Republic of Congo, which is running from 12-16 April."
The two in-market activities are expected to provide market intelligence that will help Zimbabwean companies get an insight on products that have an export potential, market requirements as well as the export penetration strategies that can be adopted for the above markets.
ZimTrade said the market survey in Tanzania was focusing on processed foods, building and construction, horticulture, and agriculture inputs and implements sectors.
During the survey, the agency would engage buyers from leading retail chains in Tanzania to discuss demand patterns and requirements that local exporters will need to meet as they increase exports to that country.
This includes discussing areas of cooperation with business-member organisations in Tanzania.
The intervention dovetail with the Government's economic diplomacy and support the National Development Strategy's focus on strengthening co-operation with the international community.
Commenting, ZimTrade operations director, Mr Similo Nkala, said regional markets provide a soft landing for Zimbabwean products as they are easy to access and do not have strict requirements.
"There are vast opportunities for local exporters in Tanzania, especially small businesses riding on regional and continental trade agreements," he said.
"Given the proximity to Tanzania, small businesses should consider the country as a springboard to international markets."
Zimbabwe and Tanzania are signatories to the Southern Africa Development Community (Sadc) Trade Protocol, which stimulates and encourages trade by giving one another preferential treatment in the reduction or elimination of customs duties.
According to Trade Map, Tanzania imported products and services worth around US$11,57 billion in 2019, up from US$7,69 billion in 2016.
Top import products that Zimbabwean manufacturers can export to Tanzania include electrical machinery, pharmaceutical products, animal or vegetable fat, cereals, and tobacco.
ZimTrade said the pre-mission assessment in DRC was being conducted in preparation for an outward seller mission scheduled for 18-21 May in Lubumbashi.
This will be preceded by a trade and investment seminar that is expected to strengthen economic cooperation between DRC and Zimbabwe.
During the pre-mission assessment, ZimTrade will engage strategic partners in DRC, including business member organisations and authorities.
"The DRC market offers lucrative opportunities for Zimbabwean companies across all sectors such as, mining, agriculture, and services," said the agency.
"The country is predominantly rich in mineral resources and relies on imports of goods and services for its huge population."
DRC produces more than three percent of the world's copper and half its cobalt, most of which comes from Katanga region.
This presents a good opportunity for Zimbabwean exporters of mining consumables, engineering, and safety solutions to do business with both small and large-scale miners in the Katanga region.