Pamela Shumba, Senior Reporter
BOTSWANA is ready to strengthen economic ties with Zimbabwe so as to boost economic growth for both countries.
Botswana Investment and Trade Centre chief operations officer, Mr Reginald Selelo, said this in Bulawayo yesterday during a Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries (CZI) and Zimbabwe International Trade Fair (ZITF) Buyers and Sellers’ Forum.
He said there was potential to increase trade between Zimbabwe and Botswana hence the need for continuous sharpening of relations between the two countries.
Mr Selelo said Botswana was looking forward to exporting to all countries in Africa, particularly their neighbour Zimbabwe taking advantage of the market access opportunity that has been provided to the two countries.
“We’re interested in seeing products coming from Zimbabwe. This is the message that we’ve come here with and we’re encouraging companies at the ZITF to seriously consider taking up opportunities in Botswana,” he said.
“Looking at the trade statistics between the two countries, there has been a decrease since 2014. In 2014 we exported about $105 million worth of goods to Zimbabwe as compared to $30 million in 2017.
“There’s need for us to increase trade. The instruments are there. We have the Zimbabwe –Botswana Trade agreement, which can help us improve economically.” Mr Selelo said his country was a safe and stable destination for investment, with tightly controlled inflation and interest rates as well as minimum corruption.
“Looking at the investment climate in Botswana, it’s easy for companies to borrow and invest in their businesses. In terms of macro-economic stability, we’re the best according to the World Economic Forum and we’re the second least corrupt country in Africa,” he said.
“We have stable democracy and we don’t have foreign exchange controls in Botswana. Issues around inflation and interest rates in Botswana are tightly controlled. We export mainly mining products and we import manufactured products, fuel and food products. On the relations between Botswana and Zimbabwe, we’re both members of the African Union and Sadc Trade Protocol.”
Mr Selelo added that Zimbabweans who want to do business in Botswana can do it easily with support from the neighbouring country’s Government.
CZI Matabeleland Chamber president Mr Joseph Gunda said inviting Botswana to Zimbabwe was a strategic move to improve trade between the two countries to propagate industrial growth.
“The objective of this meeting is to connect both local and foreign buyers and sellers to capacitate industry and explore business opportunities as well as provide development partnerships and discuss topical issues affecting trade.
“We also want to discuss solutions to the country’s myriad of challenges and consolidate business solutions. Our challenges in Zimbabwe range from old equipment, liquidity, foreign currency shortages, high production costs, which make our products uncompetitive regionally and internationally, inefficient and unreliable utilities, corruption, high interest rates and low export base,” said Mr Gunda.
He emphasised the need to collectively address the challenges in earnest, adding that the relationship between industry and Government should be strong in order to ignite re-industrialisation for economic growth.
Mr Gunda said Zimbabwe’s biggest trading partner was South Africa, which takes 52 percent of the exports, but back in 1992 the country’s exports were diversified.
“There is need to eliminate the risk of over reliance on one trading partner. We have other destinations for our services and products, which need to be fully utilised like Botswana. Back in the 90s we used to export cabbages to Francistown but this has dried down.
“We, therefore, need to continue with market research to identify who indeed our customer is and what products and services they need and what we can do best to satisfy them for industrial growth,” said Mr Gunda.— @pamelashumba1.