Home » Business » Buy Zimbabwe Competitiveness Driver [column]

Buy Zimbabwe in conjunction with the National Economic Consultative Forum and the Ministry of Industry and Commerce hosted the Buy Zimbabwe Annual Conference last week.

It was dubbed “Building competiveness, leveraging on local and global opportunities”.

Several Government officials including Industry and Commerce Minister Mike Bimha and his deputy Alice Mabuwa and Finance and Economic Development Deputy Minister Dr Samuel Undenge attended the conference and gave insight on the perspective of Government to issues that were being discussed.

Brands Africa Thebe Ikalafeng who was the main speaker delivered an evocative constructive speech on brand management.

One of the key issues that emerged from the conference was that ultimately Buying Zimbabwe must be about building the long term competitiveness of our local industry and commerce rather than erecting a protectionist wall.

At no point must the Buy Zimbabwe initiative be confused with a call for blind protectionism as well as a drive to force consumers to accept sub-standard products.

Buying Zimbabwe must be about Government and local stakeholders working together to ensure that local products and services are given preference on the basis of quality, price, innovation and their capacity to create local employment and wealth.

Mr Sam Walton, the founder of the global retail giant Walmart, confessed in his biography that at some point he had come to the view that Amercian goods were inherently costly and inferior to imported goods.

However, when his store chose to support the Buy America “Bring it Home”initiative on the basis of an agreed criteria he was surprised by the gains.

For starters he realised that the biggest challenge was that once retailers lock themselves into a limited set of suppliers they limit the growth of other competitive offerings that may not be part of the mainstream.

Secondly by engaging manufacturers from across the entire country, they discovered that quite a number were able to beat foreign products that were becoming dominate.

In the end the “Bring it back Home” campaign proved immensely popular, saved many Amercian jobs and spared Wallmart from the hassle of logistics associated with organising imports. In many instances we give imports more credit than they deserve and we lock out a number of emerging entrepreneurs that will have unearthed the formula of challenging these foreign offerings.

The present operating environment requires retailers to widen their search for products and for manufacturers to dig deeper for solutions that enable them to offer price better, innovate better and help grow local production.

The good thing is that some local companies have managed to whither the storm and are recording profits. Indeed there are some companies that have sought to challenge dominate perceptions against local goods and made strides into areas that we thought we had lost market share forever.

The cooking oil sector is one such area where the market is now being dominated by a local product. We also notice that Dendairy have followed Dairibord who decided to enter the milk sachet market.

Imported products do not have an inherent right to beat us on the local market. Minister Bimha said the key lies in instituting measures to ensure a fair playing ground. He added that this will require collective effort of all Zimbabweans.

“I have no doubt in my mind that deliberations during this important Annual Conference will go a long way towards meeting the goal of “Buy Zimbabwe”.

“Buy Zimbabwe should not only be the organisers’ business but should be indeed everyone’s business if we are to succeed as an economy and as a nation. Let me assure you that as Ministry of industry and Commerce we will not be found wanting,” he said.

Interestingly, contrary to general perception on the competitiveness of local goods, the prices that are prevailing within the supermarket are very closely related to those that attain in most retail outlets in the country.

In fact in many instances the foreign products are more expensive than the local ones. As such the Buy Zimbabwe team did not witness a major price differential with local goods. There is thus room to procure locally without affecting customer offering.

In his remarks the Dr Undenge emphasised that Buy Zimbabwe should not be blind to the issues of competitiveness.

“The task at hand is to resuscitate industry and push for increased domestic production and consumption. By tirelessly aocating for consumption of local products and services, Government and Buy Zimbabwe are in no way aocating for blind adherence to domestic products. In fact we are all for the enhancement of our local competitiveness in terms of pricing delivery quality and packaging,” he said.

Buying Zimbabwe is critical to saving our economy and let us work to ensure that in 2014, our country wins.

Till next week. God Bless.

Source : The Herald