Bountiful export opportunities in Mat’ North
The current development discourse centred on an inclusive approach to national development has seen renewed interest to identify more economic opportunities across all provinces, outside traditional and known forms of business interests.
As fronted by President Mnangagwa, the strong call of “leaving no one and no place behind” is expected to unlock opportunities across all provinces, as the country gears up to achieving upper middle-income status by 2030.
Here, the Second Republic, in line with the devolution agenda is targeting to improve the contribution of all districts to national economic growth.
For all provinces to unlock more opportunities, there is need to identify non-traditional forms of business activities that would leverage on existing revenue sources, as well as available natural resources.
Further to this, all provinces must ride on areas they enjoy competitive and comparative advantages to grow exports, which would guarantee businesses sustainable source of foreign currency.
The need to focusing on an export-oriented economy is rooted in the understanding that middle income countries that are export-oriented grow faster than those that are generally less export-oriented.
Thus, there is no doubt that for the country to quickly realise its economic and human development goals, all districts must harness their potential and grow their contribution to national export growth.
To help provinces identify export opportunities, ZimTrade – national trade development and promotion organisation – has since conducted researches to establish export potential in all provinces.
The studies are expected to help identify and expand the export potential and markets of the products and services offered in different provinces.
This column, over the next editions of The Sunday Mail will unpack the opportunities that are available in Zimbabwe’s ten provinces, starting with Matabeleland North.
Opportunities for diversification and export growth
Matabeleland North is rich in minerals, forestry, wildlife and water, and its economy is centred around activities such as mining, tourism, cattle ranching, crocodile farming, and fisheries.
The province is home to Victoria Falls, The Kariba dam, Hwange National Park, and vast natural resources such as coalbed methane gas, coal, coking coal, lithium, gold, and diamond resources.
Whilst these resources have sustained the economic activities in the provinces, there are growing calls that product diversification, particularly export-oriented products will help the Province to grow its economy and improve livelihoods of its people.
For example, the Province boasts of a large hardwood forest which could potential make it a hub for exotic and high-end furniture if manufacturers are capacitated and assisted to form organised groupings.
Further to this, the province hosts a large water aquifer reservoir, which if fully exploited, could transform some areas into agricultural centres producing export horticultural produce such as fresh fruits and vegetables.
The large deposits of unsurpassed clay in areas such as Lupane and Hwange can contribute towards a strong regional ceramic industry that can tap into a strong culture and tradition to produce unique products for a niche market.
To grow exports, there is also need for concerted efforts to address longs standing challenges affecting export opportunities, such as Foot and Mouth Disease, which limits the potential of the province to export its meat products, albeit potential due to high quality and better taste.
With easy access to neighbouring countries such as South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, and Zambia, capacitating manufacturers and producers in Matabeleland North can potential make it a gateway of vast products and services to regional markets.
Binga district export potential
Binga district, home to baTonga people rests on the frontier of the Zambezi River, which offers several livelihood and business opportunities.
The access to fresh water means businesses in Binga district can consider large scale fish production for local and regional markets.
The district also has a thriving crocodile farming industry, which if fully supported, can create opportunities for exports of exotic leather and leather products.
However, fishing and crocodile farming business would need to be done in a sustainable manner that does not affect the environment, as this is one of the areas that international buyers are considering when sourcing products from developing countries.
One of the areas that could provide long-term options for Binga district is agriculture, which is often affected due to human and wildlife conflict.
Establishing protected farms could be one of the solutions that can see growth in export-focused agriculture production in Binga.
Products such as ginger, turmeric, sesame, citrus, and castor bean have a potential to be upscaled for exports and provide quick wins.
As the tourism sector in Binga is supported by a vibrant arts and crafts sector, there is potential for products such as baskets, chairs, and other crafts in international markets.
Vast forestry in and around Binga can provide natural ingredients that can be value added into cosmetic and personal hygiene products.
Currently, some groups of women in Binga have embarked on value adding plants like ximenia, moringa, turmeric, aloe, and ginger.
For example, Zubo Women Trust is producing the Jatropha soap, which has become very popular in areas around the Zambezi valley.
They have complemented its catalising properties in healing infections, more than the industrially produced soaps they normally use, hence reducing their reliance on imported detergents.
With support, there is room to scale up production and meet huge orders that are often required by international buyers.
Bubi district export potential
Current economic activities in Bubi districts are concentrated in mining and agriculture.
Although agricultural sector is dominated by irrigation schemes, the good thing is that these are organised in the form of cooperatives, which makes it easy to coordinate production for export markets.
With capacity building and training, smallholder farmers in Bubi can consolidate produce such as chilli, sesame seeds, and small grains for export markets.
Hwange district export potential
The economy in Hwange is dominated by mining (also support electricity generation), and tourism and hospitality.
Human and wildlife conflict often makes it difficult for activities such as farming.
However, the strong tourism sector makes Hwange district the hub for exports of arts and crafts, riding on potential international buyers who visit Victoria Falls and Hwange for leisure and holidays.
Ideally, establishing an arts and crafts cluster and centres of excellency in and around Hwange district will improve on quality and standards, as well as make it easy for artists to consolidate their products.
Capacity building and funding will make it easy to establish and sustainably run such centres.
For the mining sector, value addition and beneficiation in the mining sector will allow businesses to unlock full potential in the sector, whilst at the same time creating jobs, improving infrastructure, and better incomes for people in Hwange.
Lupane district export potential
Lupane district, the provincial capital is hosts the Lupane State University, which can be hub of innovation.
The main activities in the district, which all have export potential, include tourism and safaris, natural oils and apiculture, cattle ranging, forestry timber production.
For example, being the largest reserve of indigenous hardwood in the area, there is potential to develop a viable export industry from the forestry timber and associated by-products.
Nkayi district export potential
Nkayi district has huge gold deposits such that gold mining is one of the main economic activities in this district.
There are very few irrigation schemes in this district, making it difficult to grow agriculture export in Nkayi.
With large teak forests in the district, there is potential for production of high-end hard wood products that have potential in market such as South Africa and other African markets, Europe, Asia, and Middle-East.
However, this needs to be done in a sustainable manner.
Tsholotso district export potential
The district, although one of the driest parts of the province, has potential for traditional grains production and exports.
Furniture production is one of the low hanging fruits for export products.
Further to this, with assistance in water solutions, the extensive tracts of land for cattle ranching can contribute towards increased meat and leather production in the district.
Umguza district export potential
The district, whose areas surrounds Bulawayo city has export potential in dairy farming and flower production, products, clay soil products, ceramics, cement production, and forestry products.
The district can also leverage on the advanced industry in Bulawayo to strengthen its manufactured and value-added products.