Industry should invest in R&D: Chiwenga

Source: Industry should invest in R&D: Chiwenga | The Herald May 27, 2016

Conrad Mwanawashe : Business Reporter

Zimbabwe industry should invest in research and development and link with the Defence Forces and Government to promote local production and procurement to support economic growth, Defence Forces Commander General Constantine Chiwenga has said. Presenting a paper on Local Procurement by Uniformed Forces for Economic Recovery at the Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries annual general meeting yesterday, Gen Chiwenga made a number of pointers that he said may lead to economic recovery.

These include coming together of industry, the Defence Forces and Government to “think” through solutions to the current challenges.

Also, developing local production capacity, resurrecting troubled industries and strengthening co-operation between military and industry researchers would be critical.

Local procurement would reduce reliance on imports, reduce the import bill and grow the economy.

General Chiwenga said it is important to have co-operation between industry and the Defence Forces in research and development to create solutions to the economic challenges.

He said from a security perspective, local procurement is the best as it assures certainty of supply even in the event of war.

“The capacity to create defence goods must be localised and it is not appropriate for us to be importing almost everything even to the extent of importing swords, berets and buttons for use by the military,” said Gen Chiwenga.

“I therefore, challenge you members of the CZI to invest in research and development that is targeted to meet the needs of the Defence Forces. By this I am stating that the CZI must be innovative and come up with solutions to enable the Defence Forces to develop that capacity required to carry out its mandate and usher in that peace dividend critical for sustainable national economic development.

“Therefore, as your country’s security forces we are aware of the need to support the local industry through appropriate procurement policies.

“The overall procurement guidelines direct procurement officers to consider local producers first before engaging foreign sources for the supply of the goods required by the Defence Forces, in line with the indiginisation laws of the country,” he said.

The Zimbabwe Defence Forces is one of the single major spenders of Government which is often expected to stimulate aggregate demand in the economy.

Buying imported goods means exporting cash which is already in short supply. Also, it means exporting labour.

As such, Gen Chiwenga said procurement officers are fully aware of the effect of defence spending on the economy.

But for local producers to be competitive there is therefore need for business to be aggressive in its approach and reclaim its space. This means that business should also follow and invest where the defence forces create peace in the region.

Gen Chiwenga pointed to the lackadaisical approach by business when the army helped end wars in neighbouring Mozambique and the Democratic Republic of Congo saying business did not move in to invest in the two countries.

“Regrettably, there were no corresponding interests from Zimbabwean businesses to follow in the footsteps of the Defence Forces to establish businesses there, instead South African companies ended up seizing the peace dividend. I certainly crave for the development of a courageous and patriotic crop of businesses that are aggressive, independent and venturesome.

“Get the head out of the sand and let us do something for our country. If our local companies had ventured aggressively into these markets it would have created huge benefits to the Zimbabwean economy,” he said.

There is also need to revive industries that have either folded or are in intensive care.

Due to limited local industry capacity the security forces ended up creating capacity to produce their own uniforms.

“Where is David Whitehead Textiles? Where is Modzone Enterprises? When I received this invitation, I went down memory lane when co-operation was fruitful and weapon platforms like mortars were produced here. You would also readily remember the PUMA vehicle which was locally produced in this country and substantial coach building that was done by such companies as Dahmer.

“Therefore, there is need for that strong deliberate investment in research and development in industry that is geared to support the Defence Forces and the economy at large,” said Gen Chiwenga.