Exporters must take advantage of online business platforms

Let us face it, the coronavirus has changed the way we do business for good.

What this means is that businesses that are not quick to embrace the requirements of the current times will likely face challenges going forward.

One of the major implications that coronavirus (COVID-19) has had on business is demystifying the notion that physical meetings are the cornerstone of establishing and concluding business deals.

The desire to have physical meetings had perhaps remained the order of the day for long time, due to the absence of a better problem-inspired solution.

So, for local companies to remain relevant in the “new” normal, it is important that they establish strong online presence as well as take advantage of existing virtual platforms.

Imagine, the hurdles for exporters who are stuck on the requirement for physical engagements before concluding deals?

For some, the failure to adopt Information and Communication Technologies in their marketing strategies, has cost them a sizable customer base.

On the other hand, those with an appreciation for online marketing have managed to weather the storm.

As the world, adapts to a ‘new normal’, the role of digital platforms cannot be overemphasized.

In the absence of physical engagements, applications such as such as Microsoft teams, Zoom continue to gain popularity.

For Zimbabwean business, there are opportunities for growth of local brands in the international markets as more businesses from across the continent are still largely “offline”, that is with limited access to online resources whilst those that utilise the internet, it is mostly for social and not business gains.

The International Trade Centre (ITC) in a study on how business-to-business (B2B) ecommerce is being exploited across Africa noted that ‘there is a healthy number of African owned and operated marketplaces, but about 80 percent of all marketplaces operate only within national boundaries.

According to ITC, most of the home-grown platforms are either generalist business-to-consumer or consumer-to-consumer such as Jumia, Cars45, Konga, Takealot, and Gumtree.

Furthermore, B2B marketplaces with transactional capability or value-added services are rare in Africa.

Where these do exist, they are usually foreign owned and designed to sell into Africa, rather than from one African country to another.

Although the participation on online platforms is still low among businesses in Africa, the increased participation of Zimbabwean companies on the virtual platforms will improve their product visibility in international platforms, export earnings as well as contribute to national economic development.

This active participation on online platforms will also contribute to the easy attainment of export targets set out in the Second Republic’s Vision 2030, whose thrust is that of creating sustainable export-led economy, riding on areas of competitiveness.

To demonstrate the importance of online platforms to national economic development, Vision 2030 identifies that the inclusion of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) across all national development strategies is an enabling tool for development.

One of the areas that will require urgent attention going forward is provision of reliable, affordable, and fast internet connectivity in all parts of the country.

Currently, there are efforts to provide high quality services to citizens in an efficient and effective manner, as stipulated in the Vision 2030, which envisages that the country will have internet access at village level, through the extension of the fibre optic backbone, and last mile connectivity.

This means that with full exposure to the global online community, Zimbabwean businesses, regardless of location will have an opportunity to link with international buyers.

Enter Shop@Zim

To improve the linkages between local companies, ZimTrade – the national trade development and promotion organisation – has developed an online place for Zimbabwean producers to meet with global buyers.

In a quest to remain relevant and align to the evolving global trading environment, ZimTrade’s online store which is premised on the need to create a singular online window for marketing and selling Zimbabwean products.

Market scans have revealed that many local producers lack the global presence that could catapult their business into financial success.

Potential exporters entering the international market on their own often face steep challenges of acceptance owing to, for example, lack of exposure and scepticism by established buyers.

Thus, to assist companies in reaching more markets through online platforms and as a response to COVID-19, the online business platform will enhance engagements of local companies with international buyers as well as improve the visibility of locally produced products and services.

The goal of the store is to be the one stop shop for authentic Zimbabwean products obtained at source.

The platform seeks to be the nurturing, umbrella incubator for all Zimbabwean exports online, capitalizing on the already known and reputable name that it bears as the nation’s trade development and promotion body.

Shop@Zim is expected to provide an alternative access to markets where physical trade fairs and exhibitions have been suspended.

For local companies, the platform will create more streams of generating foreign currency and harness the benefits of the digital economy for corporate level and national level economic growth.

Currently, the platform has been designed to facilitate business to business engagements between local exporters and international buyers.

Plans are to expand the platform so that it accommodates purchase of commodities, including product units, by the end users.

With regards to accessing the platform, Zimbabwean companies will be hosted for purposes of trading in the international digital economic community.

ZimTrade will introduce Shop@Zim in the market by initially engaging local companies to register on the platform and thereafter, start marketing the online store to the global world to start engaging local suppliers registered on the platform.

SMEs in particular are expected to benefit from this platform as it enables them to expand their business at minimal, given the high costs of developing and maintaining a similar platform.



188 Sam Nujoma Street Avondale Harare, Zimbabwe

Tel: 263-4 369330-41, 263-867700074

E-mail: info@zimtrade.co.zw


48 Josiah Tongogara Street Btwn 3rd and 4th Avenue Bulawayo, Zimbabwe

Tel: 263-9 66151, 62378, 263-8677000378

E-mail: info@zimtrade.co.zw

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