Covid-19 Spurs Consumption Of Local Products

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WHILE the pandemic has brought with it economic downturns which are being felt across sectors in Zimbabwe, it has also spurred the localization of value chains and the consumption of locally produced goods.

Logistical interruptions due to the Covid-19 pandemic have significantly impacted the international distribution of goods resulting in Zimbabweans turning to locally produced goods.

Denford Mutashu, President of Confederation of Zimbabwe Retailers Association, said the successive lockdowns imposed to stem the spread of Covid-19 saw a lot of domestic concentration of production, as opposed to reliance on the importation of finished commodities.

“And so far we have also seen increased participation by local products on shelf space across the country as we went into the festive period, all the shops were full and are still full with locally manufactured goods,” he told Xinhua.

Although the international network of supply chains remains key to the production goods in Zimbabwe, grocery stores are now filled with local products as compared to the period before global travel restrictions were imposed.

“About 70 percent of these products that fill up the shelves are locally manufactured and there has been increased access to the commodities by the generality of the public at the moment,” Mutashu said.

He noted that there has been increased importation of raw materials and capital goods, a development that dovetails with Zimbabwe’s national development strategy which focuses on import substitution as well as coming up with a robust export strategy.

Two decades of economic decline have seen Zimbabwe’s once vibrant manufacturing sector struggling to compete with cheap imports.

The government has made it its mandate to revitalise the manufacturing sector as it seeks to propel the country into an upper-middle-income economy by 2030.

Furthermore, Mutashu said the economy also fared well, as witnessed by the stability of the foreign exchange rate and commodity prices following an introduction of a foreign currency auction system in June.

The auction system, which sees companies bidding for the available foreign currency provided by the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ), has to a great extent checked obscene black market rates that were pushing prices up.

Prior to the introduction of the auction system, local companies were sourcing their foreign currency from the black market, which in turn fuelled inflation.

“At the present moment we are very optimistic because, despite the Covid-19 pandemic, the country has continued to actually perform far much better than the expectations that we initially had when we went into lockdown,” said Mutashu.

However, he said stability can only be consolidated by ensuring that there is increased capacity utilization and value addition across all the sectors of the economy.

Mutashu expressed optimism about the coming year, adding that Zimbabwe had managed to pull through despite the lack of international Foreign Direct Investment that has not been coming into the country as anticipated.

Zimbabwe’s economy is expected to grow by 7.4 percent in 2021 after a projected 4.1 percent contraction this year.

The ambitious growth target follows the adoption of a new five-year economic blueprint, the National Development Strategy which aims at accelerating economic growth, improving the public sector and strategic infrastructure such as energy, ICT, transport, and house delivery, among others.

Tinotenda Matayi, a young entrepreneur, has sought to capitalise on the increased acceptance of local products by launching his own brand of clothing in the midst of the pandemic.

Despite the timing of the launch, Matayi said the reception of his clothing brand by the public has been phenomenal.

He credits his early success to the extensive use of social media which landed him high profile clients at home and abroad.

“My brand was started in 2018, but we started doing business during the pandemic. We made use of social media and it helped us because everyone’s eyes were glued on their mobile phones because people could not move around,” he told Xinhua.

However, Matayi said restrictions on movements during the early stages of the pandemic affected the smooth flow of business.

While the pandemic has accelerated the domestic production of goods, the informal sector which accounts for about 90 percent of Zimbabwe’s working population, was severely affected, with cross-border traders being the hardest hit.

Margaret Maleti, a cross border trader who sells clothes and shoes imported from China and South Africa at Gulf Shopping Complex in downtown Harare, said cross border traders are bearing the brunt of the pandemic.

“Covid-19 has affected us a lot because our livelihoods are sustained by trading, so due to the lockdown, many people here do not have jobs.

“We are all hustlers, this is our source of income that enables us to take care of our families, to educate our children, to put food on the table, we won’t have other means of survival if authorities impose another lockdown,” she said.

Zimbabwe is recording a surge in Covid-19 cases after reopening its borders, with experts warning that the country is facing a second wave of the virus.

As of Wednesday, the country had recorded 13,625 Covid-19 cases, 11,154 recoveries, and 360 deaths.