The Sunday Mail
ZIMBABWE’s exports continue to grow as economic diplomacy led by President Mnangagwa’s government bears fruit.
According to statistics recently released by ZimStat, the country’s exports increased by 18.4% between January and July compared to the same period last year.
In terms of value, exports of goods and services amounted to US$3.7 billion, compared to US$3.2 billion in the same period of 2021.
Exports of manufactured or value-added products increased by 19.6% against a target of 10% defined in the National Export Strategy and the National Trade Policy.
Overall, exports of value-added products amounted to US$206.1 million, compared to US$172.4 million last year.
This growth is the result of the Second Republic’s vigorous efforts to translate Zimbabwe’s relations with countries in the region and beyond into economic gains that will help the country achieve an upper-middle-income economy by 2030.
The government, through the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, has strengthened bilateral relations with other countries to ensure that Zimbabwe can be fully integrated into global supply chains.
Supported by increased trade development and promotion activities undertaken by ZimTrade, there has been increased visibility of local products and services in traditional markets, as well as in new markets.
These promotional activities have also led to an increase in demand for Zimbabwean products across the world.
In contrast, imports increased by 17% to US$4.8 billion from US$4.1 billion in 2021.
The increase in imports is driven by the growth in production, which has seen the manufacturing sector sourcing more raw materials.
Consequently, the trade deficit for the period under review widened to US$1.1 billion from US$962 million recorded in 2021.
Efforts to diversify export markets are bearing fruit.
During the seven-month period, exports to South Africa increased from $1.8 billion to $1.5 billion, while exports to the United Arab Emirates increased from $802 million at $1.2 billion.
Exports to the Netherlands also increased during the review period, from US$3.3 million in 2021 to US$28.3 million this year.
Exports to Italy also jumped to $36.8 million from $551,000 last year.
The processed food sector shows potential and can even grow further.
During the reporting period, processed food exports jumped 35%, from US$35.2 million in July 2021 to US$47.5 million this year.
The main export products of the sector were sugar ($18 million), pastry products ($4 million), malt ($2.1 million) and fruit juices ($2 million) .
The demand for locally processed foods is also increasing in the region.
Local businesses can therefore capitalize on the current momentum to introduce more products.
During engagements with buyers at the recent Maputo International Trade Fair held in Mozambique, participating companies were told that the market prefers the quality of Zimbabwean products.
Local businesses were also told that competitive pricing would allow them to easily compete with products from as far away as Europe and Asia.
International markets such as the UK and Dubai are also export targets.
In addition, exports of hides and skins increased by 39%, from US$7.7 million from January to July 2021 to US$10.7 million during the same period in 2022.
The sector’s main export products were raw hides and skins (fresh or preserved, not tanned).
At the same time, leather exports recorded marginal growth from US$1.1 million to US$1.4 million, an increase of 29%.
Considering that the sector registered a decline last year, the growth recorded so far this year indicates a recovery.
Efforts are underway to enter new markets that will help increase the sector’s exports.
For example, market research conducted by ZimTrade in Ghana this year revealed opportunities for processed leather in the market, which can be used as a stepping stone to the rest of West Africa.
Manufactured tobacco exports also jumped from US$31.8 million to US$35.4 million during the period under review, representing a growth of 11%.
ZimTrade continues to help the industry break through in the Middle East, where there is potential to do well.
Regional markets such as Mozambique, Angola and the Democratic Republic of Congo are also potential markets for the sector.
In addition, exports from the building and construction sector amounted to US$23.4 million, up slightly from the US$23.2 million recorded in 2021.
Steady growth in the sector has been anchored in ceramic tile exports, which increased from US$3.2 million in 2021 to US$9 million in 2022, after opening new markets in Zambia and Africa from South.
Although exports of value-added products are increasing, it is important to note that raw materials still dominate, which is not sustainable as it results in the export of value, jobs and development.
During the period under review, exports from the mining sector amounted to US$3.07 billion, with the main exports being gold, nickel ores, platinum and diamonds.
Unmanufactured tobacco exports amounted to US$389 million.
Exports from the clothing and textile sector decreased slightly from US$12.9 million to US$12.2 million.
The sector’s main exports were men’s or boys’ suits, sets, jackets, blazers and trousers.
There has, however, been a notable increase in footwear exports.
Exports of home and office furniture also registered a decline from US$11.96 million last year to US$10.9 million this year.
Allan Majuru is the CEO of ZimTrade