By Nozipho Maphala
Over 1,500 delegates representing the then 55 member states of the Commonwealth met in Kigali, Rwanda in June at the much-anticipated Commonwealth Business Forum.
At the event, participants got an opportunity to deliberate on key global issues and the role of the Commonwealth in leading a global reset as the world emerges from the pandemic.
ZimTrade had the opportunity to be part of the event as part of the organisation’s strategy to grow exports to non-traditional markets.
Current trade between Zimbabwe and the Commonwealth community is at 18.4 percent, the bulk being dominated by trade in minerals and tobacco, both accounting for 34 percent.
With a market size of 2,5 billion people spread across its members, and GDP of US$13 trillion that is projected to increase to an estimated US$19,5 trillion by 2027; opportunities abound for local exporters to tap into member states which have demand for the country’s value-added goods and services, as well as horticultural produce.
ZimTrade is keen on growing trade in products which include edible fruit and nuts; coffees and spices, furniture and essential oils which have shown to have potential among commonwealth nations.
Currently, Zimbabwe is already trading with members of the Commonwealth, particularly United Kingdom (UK) in horticultural produce such as organic blueberries, mangetout peas, fine beans and cut flowers among others.
Recent reports state that Zimbabwe has risen to become one of the region’s leading exporters of blueberries, supplying over 5,000 tonnes of the delectable fruit a year.
In addition, feedback from export markets says some UK retailers have upgraded varieties like Ventura and Biloxi from local producers versus other origins due to their unmatched eating quality, and by so doing, offering higher prices for these.
Excellent soil quality and favourable climatic in the country largely contribute to this superior quality output.
To boost production of high potential products in order to maximise on such opportunities as presented in the Commonwealth, ZimTrade is currently working on various cluster initiatives in specific sectors along areas of competitive and comparative advantages.
The organisation is offering various capacity development activities in order to strengthen local companies in regaining their competitive edge in the international market.
The cluster concept is useful in that it can help accommodate out-growers who increase production of various commodities.
Many companies around the world rely on out grower schemes and closer to home, established companies like Tanganda, Ariston, and Tongaat Hullet among others have thriving out-grower schemes that boost their exports capacity.
Similarly, the arts and crafts, is another sector with potential within the Commonwealth community that is currently being supported.
The basket weaving groups of the Matabeleland North and Manicaland provinces will be empowered to gain the skills and certifications necessary to penetrate markets within the Commonwealth.
In fact, to empower this sector with a strong bias towards women owned businesses, Zimbabwe will be participating in the Birmingham Autumn Festival in September this year, where five companies in the arts and crafts, gifts and lifestyle sectors will be supported to showcase their wares to some of the Commonwealth member nations in attendance.
Various programs held in conjunction with local and international development cooperative partners, are in place to build capacity in that sector with the intention to penetrate the Commonwealth community.
To determine specific gaps within the community, ZimTrade continues to pursue various activities to generate market intelligence.
A Market Survey was carried out earlier this year to ascertain appetite of Zimbabwean products in the UK market, to which it was found that there were immense opportunities in processed foods, fast moving consumer goods and horticultural produce.