Bulawayo industry transforms

The Chronicle

Sikhulekelani Moyo, Business Reporter
THE improved support from Government under the Second Republic is having a transformative impact on Bulawayo industries, which continue to register positive strides despite macro-economic challenges facing the country.

Despite the disruptive Covid-19 pandemic, the city registered strong business recovery momentum in 2021, which was evidenced by improved capacity utilisation and exports by several local companies.

Riding on the on-going ease of doing business reforms, fiscal support incentives and enhanced access to foreign currency through the Forex Auction System, the Government has pledged that, going forward, more attention will be given to assisting ailing firms and resuscitating some of the closed operations.

In contrast to recent years, where the second largest city suffered massive closure and relocation of big companies, the tide is turning as more companies are now expanding capacity and growing their export footprint.

The turnaround is happening at a time when the Government is working closely with the private sector to roll out comprehensive economic reforms under the mantra “Zimbabwe is open for business”.

Big companies in Bulawayo such as diversified Treger Group of Companies, Archer Clothing, Zimplow and United Refineries Limited, Sheppco BMA Fasteners, Metal Founders, Datlabs, Kango Products, Zambezi Tanners, General Beltings and Arenel, to mention a few, are emerging stronger – defying the Covid-19 strain and other limiting factors.

Speaking during a tour of farm implements producer, Zimplow and engineering firm, Machtec, in Bulawayo yesterday, Industry and Commerce Deputy Minister Raj Modi, who was accompanied by ministry secretary Dr Mavis Sibanda, said Bulawayo’s path to industry recovery was impressive but more still needs to be done.

He said it was for this reason that the ministry team was in the city this week to conduct comprehensive engagements with industry leaders to facilitate improved support.

“Government wants to resuscitate industries here and that’s why it’s very important to visit companies and talk to them personally to find out what challenges they face and what the Government can do to assist them,” said the deputy minister.

“Industries are saying the main challenge is the shortage of foreign currency as they are not getting it on time from the forex auction. We are looking into it and we’ll engage relevant authorities on the issue.”

Dr Sibanda also said Government was happy with the strides being made by Bulawayo industries towards reclaiming the city’s manufacturing hub status.

“The industry is flourishing, the attitude is good, the morale is high and the companies are raring to go and the ministry is here to give full support,” she said.

Dr Sibanda said the growth achieved so far in Bulawayo was evidence of improved Government support under the New Dispensation, which continues to work hard to revive the economy.

“It’s the President’s intention that we bring Bulawayo back to its industrial hub status and His excellency has tasked us to work hard with the industries, hear their problems and support them,” she said.

In line with the National Development Strategy (NDS1: 2021-2025), Dr Sibanda said Bulawayo industry revival must be driven more by value chain approaches.

In that regard, she said the ministry will “work with the industry towards retooling and structural transformation”.

Dr Sibanda assured industry executives that more Government support will be facilitated as long as they also play their part to increase domestic production.

Zimplow managing director Mr Walter Chigwada said while they were benefiting from the forex auction, the support was not adequate.

He also said as an exporting firm, the business was being hampered by the issue of 40 percent mandatory liquidation of proceeds, which cripples their operations.

“We are facing challenges in accessing forex but our major challenge is the 40 percent liquidation,” said Mr Chigwada.

“We have loans to pay and also we need to buy inputs, which we cannot get locally. So, the 60 percent retention is not enough for that.

“We appeal to the Government to reduce that 40 percent or to remove it totally as they once did so that we manage to pay back loans and buy inputs.”

In line with the Government’s vision to facilitate 40 000 tractors for the agriculture sector by 2025, Mr Chigwada said Zimplow has started producing tractor drawn equipment so as to help the economy reduce the amount of foreign currency the Government can use in acquiring such implements.

In his remarks, Machtec managing director Mr Christopher Muchenu said they were appreciative of Government support measures and also insisted that foreign currency shortages were a major constraint.

“Some of the challenges we highlighted include access to forex and funding for capital projects that we are currently doing,” he said.

The company is pushing towards establishing its own metal foundry and have already bought machines from China.

Mr Muchenu said as industries they were happy that Government through the National Budget, has given them rebate on importation of capital equipment.

“We are happy to learn that there is a rebate for capital goods that we can assess as industries, which we can take advantage of. We are also excited to have been given the promise to look into various funding on capital projects that we do,” he said.

Last year President Mnangagwa visited Bulawayo and toured some of the top performing companies in May where he expressed excitement about the re-industrialisation drive and commended private sector leaders for embracing innovation to drive their resuscitation.–[email protected]

Article Source: The Chronicle

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