Friday, April 28, 2017

Industrialization is the Way, Says Namibian President: ‘Change Mentality, Work Together’
THE Namibian President  Cde Hage Geingob (centre) admires the furniture gift they are sitting on, of a table and six chairs, he was given by  the Zimbabwe International Trade Fair (ZITF) company after he officially opened this year’s Trade Fair yesterday. Looking on after handing over the furniture is the Minister of Industry and Commerce Cde Mike Bimha (right) and the ZITF board Chairperson Ms Ruth Ncube. — (Picture by Dennis Mudzamiri)

Prosper Ndlovu, Business Editor
Zimbabwe Chronicle

VISITING Namibian President Cde Hage Geingob yesterday implored African governments and the private sector to aggressively champion industrialisation and avoid overreliance on exporting raw materials.

Officially opening the 58th edition of the Zimbabwe International Trade Fair (ZITF) in Bulawayo, President Geingob said the challenges facing the continent and the rising youth unemployment could only be addressed through harnessing regional linkages and pursuing a robust regional industrialisation agenda that is anchored on value addition and beneficiation.

He bemoaned low intra-regional trade and reliance on imports from developed economies, which he blamed for the continued use of economic models that serve colonial interests.

“Trade between African governments has generally been low. This is so because our trading patterns have been aligned to service the requirements of former colonial powers and partly because many African countries essentially produce similar goods, mainly agricultural and mineral commodities.

“Little or no beneficiation takes place in many of our countries and the bulk of finished goods are imported from Europe and Asia. This must change,” said President Geingob, who was the guest of honour.

“There is not a single advanced economy in the world today that did not go through the industrialisation process. African economies will be no different. To address burning challenges in particular rising youth unemployment, we will have to expand our industrial base and manufacturing capabilities.”

President Geingob said Zimbabwe’s economy was poised to register robust growth following good rains which resulted in a bumper harvest, which he said laid a solid foundation for growth in other processing sectors.

He said agricultural exhibitions at the ZITF demonstrated that the country was indeed the bread basket of the region.

“Zimbabwe, as the bread basket of Sadc, is expecting a bumper harvest this year. From what I have seen before we came here and touring the stands particularly the agricultural sector, I must state that Zimbabwe is indeed the bread basket of Sadc and this positive outlook should bolster our hopes and encourage our business people to get ready to capitalise on the opportunity presented by this development,” he said.

Similarly, Cde Geingob said the Namibian economy was recovering and said this presented opportunities for trade and investment in the two countries.

He said Namibia recorded trade in goods worth about $13 billion in 2016 but so far trade in goods worth $24 million have been recorded.

“This low level of trade presents a huge opportunity for the two countries,” he said.

President Geingob, however, commended President Mugabe for taking the lead in advocating for an industrialised Africa. He said it was under President Mugabe’s able leadership as chairman of SADC that the regional industrialisation policy and implementation framework was adopted in 2015. Zimbabwe has already domesticated the value addition policy under Zim-Asset.

“We must work hard to ensure that this important roadmap does not collect dust on the shelf but is implemented with a sense of urgency,” said Cde Geingob.

He stressed the need for regional economies to work together to derive economies of scale and high levels of competitiveness, which could not be attained at individual country level.

As such Cde Geingob called on all Africa states to embrace regional economic integration, break all regional barriers to trade and specialise on unique competitive advantage to create regional value chains that will be able to compete globally.

He said removing barriers should cover eradicating restrictions to labour mobility and general movement of people.

“It is only through the unhindered movement in Africa that one day we will harness the full industrial capacity and capabilities of our economies,” said President Geingob.

He said Namibia has already started working on enhancing ease of movement by abolishing visa requirements for all Africans holding diplomatic official passports and that ordinary travellers who seek visas were able to get them upon arrival. To address economic inequality in the country he said his government has adopted a programme code named “Harambee Prosperity Plan”, which aims to fast track implementation of empowerment programmes.

President Geingob challenged the private sector to lead economic development processes saying the role of governments was to only provide a conducive macro-economic environment.

“It is up to the private sector to identify opportunities and turn those into viable businesses. You, the private sector are the ultimate creators of wealth,” he said.

President Geingob, however, warned businesses against seeking super or excessive profits saying such an approach was not sustainable in the long run.

He commended Zimbabwe’s efforts to reform the doing business framework to attract investment and urged the private sector to take advantage of the process as well as utilise platforms like ZITF to improve their businesses.

“Together Namibia, Zimbabwe and the rest of Africa can harness increased opportunities for industrial development. If we pull together with the private sector as Africa we can make it,” said President Geingob.

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