Latest News Editor's Choice

Opinion / Columnist

Virus proves Zimbabwe can cut imports

24 Apr 2020 at 07:44hrs | Views
Universities that suddenly came to life following the outbreak of Covid-19, rolling out manufacturing lines for materials for the prevention of Covid-19, should be a good example of how Zimbabwe can successfully promote local production.

Government could have spent millions of foreign currency importing the materials that the universities have been manufacturing. Perhaps the major take-away from the efforts being done by the institutions of higher learning is that indeed it is possible for local industries to produce goods and services, instead of entirely relying on imports.

The work being done by the universities should be taken as the first steps for the country to push towards import substitution industrialisation, which is necessary to save the scare foreign currency. What everyone has seen is the potential that exists within local universities of taking a lead in the re-industrialisation process through various innovations.

The innovation hubs that have been set up at most of the universities by President Mnangagwa should be further utilised to continue leading in research and development of concepts that can then be put to production lines in industries.

In fact, when the Covid-19 virus is finally taken care of, the momentum started by the innovation hubs should continue and be expanded so that industrial growth and manufacturing spread to other industries.

There is no reason why people should continue using rudimentary tools in their work, like in farming, when there are innovation hubs at universities that can produce tools which can be used efficiently for farm production.

The innovation hubs, for example, can come up with simple and small engine-powered tractors that even communal farmers can afford and use on their plots. The authorities should ensure that they put everything in place so that after the fight against Covid-19, the re-industrialisation process kicks off in earnest.

The local universities should be able to partner with manufacturing industries for further development of their ideas into mass production of machinery. There are also a lot of goods that are being imported for daily consumption, which can easily be manufactured locally, and these innovation hubs can lead in innovations that will translate into mass production of goods.

The production of Covid-19-related materials, which is going on at several universities, should be cascaded as an industrial development concept to industries in other areas.

This will contribute to the transformation of Zimbabwe into an upper middle income economy by 2030. The manufacturing units set up at the universities should reflect the situation in other industries where manufacturing of goods locally should be a priority.

This is why the National Venture Capital Fund should be capacitated so that industries can get support to translate their innovations into mass production of equipment and other materials.

The National Venture Capital Fund is meant to provide venture capital financing to start-ups and small to medium enterprises with strong growth potential.

The informal sector, which is growing exponentially in Zimbabwe, also stands to benefit from this fund, which can provide capital for start-up industries. What is unique about Zimbabwe's informal sector at places like Siyaso in Mbare, Harare, is that a lot of experienced and qualified artisans have set up their projects there, and are producing equipment of high quality, albeit on a small scale.

The invasion of the informal sector by the qualified people follows the closure of some manufacturing industries in recent years, which left many qualified people jobless. The people who drive the manufacturing in the informal sector are the same people who were producing goods of high quality in the formal manufacturing industries.

With the provision of access to capital, these artisans can still do the same high quality job they were doing for the industries. If production by local industries is handled deliberately and purposefully as witnessed with the manufacturing of Covid-19 materials at the institutions of higher learning, then the country might soon be coming out of the import syndrome.

The manufacture of Covid-19 materials locally is a clear indication that there are many other goods which are being imported that can actually be produced in the country locally.

The venture by the institutions of higher learning provided a synopsis of the country's capabilities in producing goods locally, given a deliberate strategy and clear manufacturing roadmap. Chinhoyi University of Technology (CUT) has been manufacturing personal protective equipment, face masks and sanitisers.

The Harare Institute of Technology (HIT) announced it had developed a ventilator which it was testing before trials begin, with the potential of making 40 such gadgets per day.

HIT Vice Chancellor Engineer Quinton Kanhukamwe said a team of engineers at his institution were working on the ventilator, which they were improving.

The National University of Science and Technology (NUST) in Bulawayo is also making masks and has been roped in by the Government to do laboratory testing for Covid-19 specimens.

Great Zimbabwe University (GZU) launched a sanitiser production project that will supply the entire Masvingo province.

The Bindura University of Science Education is making sanitisers. The Zimbabwe Defence Forces (ZDF) has chipped in with the production of face masks which are being used by security forces as they carry out their duties during the lockdown. The Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) also confirmed its capacity to produce face masks.

CAPS Holdings is producing paracetamol syrup and Vitamin C and multivitamin tablets. If these efforts are properly harnessed and spread to other industries, Zimbabwe can emerge out of Covid-19 to become self-reliant, especially with regards to goods that can be manufactured locally.

Depending on imports even for commodities that can be manufactured locally has its own repercussions on the economy, and from now henceforth, the country should examine its advantages and potential in local production.

Just like the way Covid-19 jolted the country into realising the efficacy of self-reliance, let the economic problems facing the country spur the desire to mitigate some of the deficiencies through local production.

This means that local industries should be capacitated to produce competitive goods and services that cut the heavy dependence on imports. Attraction of new technologies can help fast-track the revival and establishment of new industries that can produce goods, with the excess being exported.

Implementation of the Zimbabwe National Industrial Development Policy (2019-2023) blueprint should be accelerated, as it provides for the enhancement of the country's manufacturing sector. The policy's broad aim is to make Zimbabwe self-reliant when it comes to the production of goods and services required on a daily basis.

The industrial development policy is premised on efforts to open the country for business, modernise, industrialise and promote investment. What is important is also to develop linkages across key sectors of the economy such as agriculture, mining, manufacturing and services, which are all linked to industrial growth, and eventually self-reliance.

Source - the herald
All articles and letters published on Bulawayo24 have been independently written by members of Bulawayo24's community. The views of users published on Bulawayo24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Bulawayo24. Bulawayo24 editors also reserve the right to edit or delete any and all comments received.