Tapping into export opportunities in the Midlands province

Tapping into export opportunities in the Midlands province

The current development agenda for Zimbabwe is placing emphasis on increasing exports, especially of value-added products.

To grow the nation’s exports, President Mnangagwa’s Government, through different Ministries and related institutions, has been implementing an array of programmes and activities aimed at boosting production of export products.

This explains the increased realisation that the exporting community are an important pillar towards the country realising its target of a prosperous and empowered upper middle-income society by 2030.

During the ZimTrade Annual Exporters Conference held recently in Harare, President Mnangagwa – in a speech read on his behalf by Finance and Economic Development Minister, Hon. Mthuli Ncube – told the exporting community that they have a bigger role to play in growing the nation’s foreign currency earnings, job creation and technology transfer.

“The role played by exporters in this endeavour cannot be over-emphasised as they toil to bring in the much-needed foreign currency, create jobs for our citizenry and set the pace for technological advancements.

“This is key to pursue industrialization aimed at achieving a structurally balanced economy by the end of NDS1.”

As part of efforts to grow the country’s base of exporting companies, the Government has prioritised devolution.

Here, the directive is clear, that no one or no place should be left behind.

In addition, President Mnangagwa affirmed that, “The need to establish economic independence at district level is paramount, and this inclusive approach ensures that the country’s exports are widely diversified to the full extent of the country’s capabilities.

“The success of our people at the district level is the collective success of all of us at the national level.”

Under the new approach, Provinces are expected to identify and nurture products and services unique to them, which could be developed for exports.

To identify such products and services, ZimTrade – the country’s trade development and promotion organisation – conducted survey across all Provinces, which are expected to inform activities targeted at boosting production and exports at district level.

For example, the survey of Midlands Province concluded that low hanging export fruits are in sectors such as agriculture, mining, manufacturing, and services sectors.,

Gweru district

The capital district for Midlands Province has pre-dominantly urban population and presents several viable economic activities across sectors such as agriculture, leather and leather products, manufacturing, mining, engineering, and education.

Gweru district is home to the largest shoe company in Zimbabwe, and this could be a pivot that supports development of a strong leather cluster in the Province, which in turn can turn the district into a shoe manufacturing and exporting hub in southern Africa.

There is huge potential to export shoes and other leather products to regional markets such as Zambia, Mozambique, Malawi, and Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

In addition, Gweru district has potential for exporting steel products, targeting African markets.

Other manufacturing activities that could provide quick wins in the export front in the district include weaving and textile, clothing, and fast-moving consumer goods (FMCGs).  

Gokwe North and South Districts

Most common economic activities in Gokwe North and South districts are farming, with most small holder farmers concentrated in cotton production.

There has been an increasing number of farmers tapping into honey production.

Although cotton would seem as a quick win in terms of exports from the district, there is more value to be unlocked if the product is value-added.

This way, the district will see job creation, better earnings for farmers, and overall improved livelihoods of people in Gokwe.

Apart from cotton production, there are emerging products such as chillies and dried fruits that could provide alternate export options for rural communities in Gokwe.

In terms of honey, regional markets which are not demanding in terms of certifications could provide soft landing of Gokwe-originated honey.

To quickly unlock honey export opportunities, capacity building interventions are required so that farmers can produce enough quantities that are required by buyers in regional markets.

Chirumhanzu District

Most common economic activities that could support prospects for exports in the Chirumhanzu districts are mining and agriculture.

Most smallholder farmers in the district have years and knowledge in production of small grains and nuts such as Bambara nuts (nyimo/indlubu), ground nuts, sorghum, and rapoko and these could be earmarked for export development as demand is surging.

For example, Bambara beans are not complicated to grow and can perform well in many soils, making it possible for Chirumhanzu to develop an export cluster around the products, and other small grains and nuts.

With other horticultural produce such as onion and tomatoes being produced in the district, value addition activities such as canning will allow farmers to preserve value and access export markets.

Kwekwe District

This is a hub of agricultural, manufacturing and mining activities with low hanging fruits in products such as steel.

The largest steel manufacturing factory, Steelmakers, is in the district in the town of Redcliff, near the city of Kwekwe, the district capital.

With the district contains many large and small mines and several large steel mills, it has potential to be a steel export hub in the Midlands Province.

In agriculture, the district is associated with the production of chilies, tomatoes, cucumbers, and green pepper, which could support export growth.

Economic activities in the manufacturing sector involve agrifood processing where the district is already produced products such as canned vegetables for the local market.

With increased production, the market could be extended to countries in the region such as Angola, Botswana, DRC, and Mozambique.

Mberengwa District

Mining and production of small grains are major economic activities in the district and there have been efforts to boost production of fresh vegetables and fruits.

Export potential in the district lies in the production of horticulture products such as tomatoes, cabbages, and butternuts, all of which are in high demand in regional markets such as Botswana.

However, in order to export successfully there is need for a focus on capacitation skills for small holder farmers. These include trainings in agronomy, post-harvest handling as well as cold chain management.

Zvishavane and Shurugwi Districts

The two largely mining districts in Midlands province are touted to have large deposits of minerals such as platinum and gold.

With value addition and beneficiation in the district, Zvishavane and Shurugwi districts have potential to earn much more from its resources.

The other viable economic activity for export markets in the districts is agriculture, although production is still low.

What is encouraging however is that the districts have experienced an increase in smallholder farmers in recent years, most of whom have limited connection to export markets.

Surveys conducted in the districts revealed that some irrigation schemes have been successful in exporting with buyers coming from Francis Town in Botswana to purchase vegetables such as kale/rape.

Some of the products with export potential that can be produced in the districts include sweet potatoes, carrots, peas, baby marrow, and cucumbers.

To achieve export success there is need to integrate smallholder farmers into the high paying export market there is need to consolidate their products for destinations which require huge quantities such as the Netherlands, United Kingdom, and China.

To achieve this, concerted efforts must be made to mainstream group cohesion and embarking on aggregation as a way that these farmers can tap into these lucrative destinations.

 There is no mention of the actual products. I believe there was once some irrigation schemes that used to export to Botswana. Can we add this information.



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