The recent State of Nation Address delivered by President E. D. Mnangagwa re-emphasised the need for a collective approach to national economic development.
President Mnangagwa noted that growing production and productivity across all sectors is critical towards attainment of national targets.
“I wish to reiterate that the attainment of Vision 2030 of a prosperous and empowered upper middle-income society requires raising production and productivity across all sectors of the economy.”
To achieve maximum productivity and production, there is need to integrate all communities in mainstream national economic activities, in line with the devolution agenda being spearheaded by the Second Republic.
Here, all districts must leverage on their natural endowments, and participate in upstream and downstream value-additions.
The focus of these activities should be on products with huge export potential, which has since been identified as the sustainable way for the country to earn foreign currency.
To help communities identify their quick wins, ZimTrade – the national trade development and promotion organisation – conducted surveys across all provinces to determine products with export potential.
For example, a study of Matabeleland South revealed that agriculture sector offers more export opportunities.
Products such as oranges, garlic, paprika, spices, pecan nuts, marula oil, mopane worms, goats, and hides are some of the low hanging fruits for consideration.
Value-added minerals, processed foods, as well as arts and crafts are other products that may unlock export opportunities for the seven districts in Matabeleland South.
Beitbridge, the border town and administrative centre of Beitbridge District is the gateway to South Africa, which makes it easy to develop export-related businesses.
Currently, agriculture is the main driver of economic activities across communities in the district, and fruit trees and livestock products offer quickest wins.
In terms of fruit trees, Beitbridge district is renowned for citrus farming, and already has exporters of citrus fruits such as Bishopstone, Nottingham and Cawood estates as well as Beitbridge Juicing Company.
Citrus is one of the lowest hanging fruit for export development, and can be used to unlock markets in Europe and China.
There has been a surge in demand for citrus fruits over the past few years as consumers across the world are moving towards foods that are high in nutrients.
With the coming in of the citrus protocol with China, indications are that the demand for Zimbabwe-grown citrus fruits will continue to grow, offering export opportunities for new players.
To increase the total area under the crop in Beitbridge, which will make it easy to meet the growing demand, there is need for new players to enter and take part in the production of this high value crop.
This entrance by new players will require all stakeholders, particularly farmers, to adopt a commodity approach where established players support the entire value chain with technical, business, and agronomic skills.
Apart from citrus, there are also opportunities for livestock production, with beef earmarked for regional markets and goats targeted for Middle-East markets, such as Dubai.
To penetrate the international goat markets, players need to ensure that they attain necessary certifications which include Halal.
There are inquiries in place for goat meat in Dubai, and growing production and attaining international certifications will guarantee access to lucrative markets.
Further to this, Beitbridge is rich in non-timber forestry products, such as marula and baobab.
Setting up commercial value addition plants will grow production of products such as juices, wines, and essential oils.
These are high-value products that may offer better returns that exporting the products as raw.
With its proximity to the boarder, there are opportunities for growing exports of services in Beitbridge urban, particularly the logistics sector.
Mining largely drives the economy of Insiza district, with reports that there are over 100 gold processing plants (stamp mills, ball mills) scattered around Filabusi, Fort Rixon, and Shangani.
The mining sector, as a source of investment funds for the district, has had a positive effect on the construction, agriculture and retail sectors.
However, most of the minerals are leaving the district as raw products, which translate to selling jobs, and money.
Setting up meaningful value-addition industries – from raw minerals to high end finished products – has potential to unlock more export opportunities for the district.
Further to minerals, the agriculture sector offers export opportunities in the district.
There are farmers who have successfully grown pecan nuts for exports, with other planning to put macadamia under trial.
Growing the number of farmers and production will make this a viable export product from Insiza.
In addition, cattle ranching has increased with other organised operators expanding and readying for beef exports.
There is also room to grow a leather processing industry around the animal husbandry sub sector.
The district is strategically positioned, and when considering the challenges with logistics that other districts face, it is easy to develop export businesses along the transport corridors.
Some of the low hanging fruits are in horticultural produce such as Bambara nuts, vegetables, and sweet potatoes
These are crops that are currently grown in the district.
Already, the district is one of the major suppliers of vegetables and tomatoes to Bulawayo urban, but with support, there is room to expand their markets beyond Zimbabwean borders.
Amarula trees in the district are abundant and its fruit can be potentially value added into various exportable products.
From the agro-produce, and with advantages of proximity to transport corridors, food processing plants may provide opportunities for value addition and curb post-harvest loses.
Canned foods, beverages, and dried vegetables are some of the products for consideration.
There are also livestock producers in Umzingwane district, focusing on cattle, goats, and poultry.
To boost exports of livestock across Matabeleland South, there is need to create inter-district synergies among players, where each district can ride on areas of comparative advantage.
Mangwe and Bulilima districts
The economies of the two districts are mainly driven by crop and livestock production, with most of commercial farming centred around irrigation schemes.
As these schemes are already organised, it is easy to develop export clusters of horticultural produce such as chillies, and Bambara nuts.
The two districts also have significant herd of cattle and goats in fair quality due to abundant acacia.
Several breed improvement projects for goats are being implemented which should result in improved breeds which can compete in international markets.
Mainly the collection of marula and mopane worms are sources of livelihoods for some households in Mangwe and Bulilima districts.
Considering the high value of marula oil, which can go up to US$20 (is it per kg or per 20 or 50 mls) or more in some international markets, developing export clusters around wild fruits will help develop export products.
There is need to support producers with appropriate capital and technology at district levels for beneficiation.
The proximity of Bulilima and Mangwe to Botswana provides opportunities to resuscitate vegetable exports to the market.
At one time, the two districts accounted for a viable share of the vegetable market in Francistown.
Following the commissioning of Presidential Rural Horticulture Scheme by President Mnangagwa in Mangwe district in December last year, indications are that the districts will grow their production of export produce, thus meeting demand in regional markets.
Matobo and Gwanda districts
The climatic conditions in Matobo and Gwanda districts are pro livestock production than rain-fed cropping.
In the Matabeleland South province, there is room for developing viable industries around livestock and meat products.
In Matobo district, there are plantations of peacan nuts and growing the number of producers, even at small scale will help meet enough quantities that are often required by buyers in international markets.
There are also irrigation schemes that have been set up in the two districts and these have potential for export products such as garlic, paprika, and ginger.
Just like other districts in the province, Matobo and Gwanda have abundant non-timber forestry, which offer livelihoods to rural communities that harvest and sale mopane worms.
With sustainable harvests and strategic marketing, there is potential for mopane worms to contribute more to livelihoods than what they are currently offering.
Establishing mopane worm processing centres in the two districts will make it easy to access competitive export markets.
Processing can be drying, packaging and other value addition practices.