Zimbabwe: Covid-19 Taught Us to Be Self-Reliant - VP

14 October 2021

THE Covid-19 pandemic, which forced governments across the world to shut down their economies in a manner that negatively impacted global trade, has taught Zimbabwe the need to strive to attain self-sufficiency, Vice President Constantino Chiwenga said yesterday.

He however pointed out that now that infections had been put under control, though authorities remain highly cautious, Zimbabwe was exploring new innovations to drive production, productivity and initiatives to enhance value chains in order to grow the economy.

VP Chiwenga made the remarks during an interview with Expo 2020 Dubai media team after touring the Zimbabwe pavilion. He is in the UAE leading a team of five cabinet ministers at the expo, where he is also attending the Global Business Forum Africa (GBFA).

The Vice President attended the opening session of the GBFA, which started yesterday and ends today, running on the sidelines of Expo 2020 Dubai, which kicked off on October 1, 2020 and stretches until March 31, 2022. He will address the forum this morning.

The pandemic disrupted global supply chains through various national restrictive measures aimed at curtailing its spread, including through lockdowns and banning of intercity travel, resulting in shortages of certain basic goods and services while pushing prices up.

VP Chiwenga said Covid-19 had a world-wide ravaging impact and that Zimbabwe was not spared, which forced the country to adopt stringent hybrid mitigation measures, since March last year, when the first case of the pandemic was detected in the country.

"We had to take our own measures, blend them with WHO (World Health Organisation) measures, which had been put in place; that is social distancing, masking up, sanitising and for people to stay at home if they had no business at all," he said.

This helped to control the disease, but like many other countries worldwide, Zimbabwe continued to be battered by waves of new infections.

When the initial measures instituted by the Government proved insufficient, the Vice President said, the authorities rolled out a massive vaccination programme, also putting emphasis on port entry, tourist resorts and key economic areas, which he said was crucial.

"I am happy to say that in one of the Seven Wonders of the World (Victoria Falls, in Zimbabwe), we have achieved 100 percent herd immunity, and in most economic areas, we have achieved herd immunity; in border post areas and hot spot areas, which had been affected.

"We continuously educate our people to say the disease is still with us, it is not yet over. And we are now saying post Covid-19, we are in a new normal.

"What is that we do? We need now to continue to build our economy, to come up with new strategies because we have learned a lot of things during this period. (Due to Covid-19) movement between countries was very slow; so it taught us to be self-sufficient and produce on our own.

"Now, we have over 61 percent of our products (consumed in the country) produced by Zimbabwe, and on our (supermarket shelves), and we continue to grow that," he said.

Experiences gained from dealing with the situation internally had created an opportunity for Zimbabwe to assess how the local producers had developed their production capacities, with some of the products now being exported and tested on the global markets.

Under the new normal, he said, Zimbabwe was evaluating across all the key economic sectors namely agriculture, mining, tourism and manufacturing, new innovations the country should adopt for all its value chains in order to grow the economy.

This would also be done with a view to achieve vision 2030 of transforming Zimbabwe into a prosperous and empowered upper middle income society by 2030, as enunciated by President Mnangagwa.

Similarly, VP Chiwenga said climate change had affected everybody across the globe, which in Zimbabwe's case had altered rainfall patterns.

The net effect of global warming, he said, was that climate change had worsened food security for countries worldwide, as temperatures rose.

"So we are employing a lot of strategies; the first and foremost strategy is to dam the water so that it does not run away to the oceans; the oceans are already full of water, so we harness it.

"Once we have dammed it, we are developing irrigation; so we can now irrigate any crop and grow any crop in our country, and that is what we are doing.

"This particular past agricultural season the minister of agriculture reported what has never been achieved since our independence; to have a 34 percent growth in production.

"So, for the first time we have a surplus and we are going to continue to do that, each year we have to add a sizeable number of hectarage.

"By 2025, we want to put 350 000 hectares under irrigation; so if it rains fine, it is an advantage to us; if it does not rain we would still have enough (to feed ourselves).

"And Zimbabwe is the most dammed country on the African continent; now what is happening is that the ministry of agriculture has developed a number of strategies; be it in livestock; be it in crops; they have developed a number of strategies," he said.

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