Harare - Zimbabwe’s Foreign Affairs and International Trade Minister, Dr Sibusiso Moyo, says the country’s exports will this year likely grow by five percent despite disturbances to business caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Southern African nation has been weighed down by trade deficits but is working to reverse the tide by growing an export-oriented economy.
Zimbabwe is a net importer of fuel, machinery, equipment, electricity, motor vehicles and motor spares. The bulk of export receipts come from gold and tobacco.
Dr Moyo told a meeting with business in Harare this week that, “It is projected that our exports for the full year will reflect growth of around five percent, perhaps a little more, with an overall deficit of well below the half billion US dollar mark. Although this is less than the target of 10 percent which we set ourselves at the launch of the National Trade Strategy towards the end of last year, it is still a significant achievement, especially given the massive impact Covid-19 related restrictions have had upon global trade, both supply and demand.”
Overall, Zimbabwe’s trade with SADC members was down 12 percent for the first eight months of 2020 compared to the same period in 2019.
“This scenario must be reversed. We must strive harder to fully recapture lost market share within both regions and indeed further afield,” Dr Moyo said.
Bilateral trade with Mauritius, Mozambique, Tanzania and Angola reflected significant improvement. Further afield, the country recorded growing commerce with Egypt, Kenya, Sudan and Uganda.
He said Zimbabwe must accelerate preparations to take full advantage of opportunities brought by the commencement of the African Continental Free Trade Area on January 1, 2021.
“We must not be left behind or be caught unawares as those others seek to penetrate and dominate intra-Africa trade flows. We have the capability, the capacity and the know-how, we have the products: what we need is the drive and determination to move beyond our traditional comfort-zone and to pro-actively go after those markets and trade opportunities,” Dr Moyo said.
“Also worrisome at the present is the fact that in excess of 70 percent of our exports comprises raw or basic commodities – specifically minerals and unmanufactured tobacco. Exports of beneficiated or value-added products, as well as the export of services, is very low. Going forward, there is a need for a much more concerted effort to add value and beneficiate the commodities that, today, we export in raw or unprocessed form.”
Exports in 2018 were around U$4 billion against imports of about US$6,5 billion, giving a trade deficit of approximately US$2,5 billion. In 2019, total merchandise exports remained around the US$4 billion mark, but imports dropped by 32 percent to around US$4,5 billion, bringing the trade deficit to around US$500 million.