via Buy local, save jobs | The Herald June 23, 2014
The latest figures from Zimstats indicate that the period January to May 2014, Zimbabwe’s trade deficit increased to $1,4 billion up from close to $400 million the first quarter of the year. As a country we imported goods and services worth $2,5 billion against exports of $990 million. While there appears to be marginal decrease in the figures as compared to a similar period in 2013 what cannot be in dispute is the fact that at present levels our deficit is still very high and if left to continue will worsen the state of the Zimbabwean economy.
To put the statistics into perspective, the deficit we incurred is a sum that would have been sufficient to build a mine as big as Zimplats whose present value is $1 billion dollars. Zimplats employs in excess of 5 000 people and has created jobs across the country entire value chain.
In its latest company results Zimplats says its local procurement policies have seen over $50 million being channelled to local suppliers who in turn are contributing to the local economy through various tax obligations. Having set aside the $1 billion to unlock the value of our minerals, we would still have an extra $400 million left for destribution to other needy areas of the economy.
We may choose to channel half of the figure to Shabani Mashaba Mines who at peak took care of 25 000 families but now require slightly under $200 million to be operational. Alternatively 90 million of such figure could be channelled to fully meeting the needs of our grain reserves with $100 million set aside to augment the interbank market recapitalisation initiative which has contributed to much of our current liquidity crunch. Still an extra $100 million would be available for on lending to other areas in desperate need of cash injection.
These are some of the possibilities that our country can exercise if it fully embraces the Buy Local Save Jobs campaign that has just been launched by Minister of Youth development, Indigenisation and Empowerment, Honourable Francis Nhema.
As the Minister points out, it is high time that we begin to see to a connection between our buying behaviour and our ability to remain productively engaged as employees, entrepreneurs and a people engaged in various economic activities.
If our statistics suggested that our deficit is incurred mainly in the procurement of capital goods, there would be little to worry about because it will only be a matter of time before this imbalance is corrected and such funds are redirected to productive use. Sadly we are still in a consumption mood and still to fully realise the effects of our love for the fine things in life.
We are using money desperately needed for medicines, school fees, industry etc to buy sweets, fuel and fertilisers that can easily made by the likes of Sable Chemicals and Arenel. We have gifted the world with jobs while our graduates from the multitudes of universities go without a decent living.
Through the Buy Local Save job initiative which has been fully embraced by local industry and commerce, national broadcaster, ZBC and various partners, it is hoped Zimbabweans in their diversity will begin to make connections between what they choose to do and their ability to enhance their lives.
Minister Nhema rightly points out an anomaly that has ravaged most of our local business people as well as Government. In as much as each part complains that its products and services are not being supported locally, the same parties are often guilty of preferring to import when presented with a decision of where to direct their moneys.
They do so fully convinced that local products and services (except theirs) are not affordable and do not match the quality offered by those that come from elsewhere. Instead of engaging and seeking to find out collective solutions there is often an assumed value in going to China or South Africa.
The Founder of Walmart, Sam Walton, says in his autobiography, even before they begun the Buy America campaign he assumed only foreign was better. To his surprise when he engaged American producers he realised that they could match the world and better still without logistic nightmares but an added benefit that they were now saving local jobs. That became the driver of Walmart success.
Until each and every one person who bears the brunt of a poorly performing Zimbabwean economy plays their part, the whole fabric that makes Zimbabwe is in trouble. None is safe as long as we fail to observe the link between individual action and what happens to the economy.
The beauty of the campaign is that it has been embraced by musicians who are even producing a song for it. Social media which has emerged as a great marketing tool has also been utilised to ensure that Zimbabwe begins to puts its money where its mouth is.
Government too has promised that it will also re-examine its procurement practices that for some reason have surprised all and sundry by choosing imported products rather that those produced here.
The hope of all parties is that the Buy Local Save Jobs campaign will add momentum to the trend that has emerged in all sectors to begin realising that our buying behaviour have contributed to our present economic mess. However, and as indicated by Minister Nhema and stakeholders at the launch ceremony, the buy local programme must never divert from the ultimate goal of ensuring that our products and services are competitive.
Like the American fiscal stimulus programme which has now been gradually phased out, this is a short time intervention measure that is meant to save the local economy and ensuring that the necessary readjustments are put in place. It is necessary to build the strength to compete.
Those that have watched the ongoing Soccer World Cup in Brazil would testify that with sufficient will it is now possible for small nations to beat even those that believed it was their destiny to emerge victorious. Uruguay which had never beaten European opposition has just beaten England while Mexico had the heroics of their goal keeper deny firm favourites Brazil in winning.
All this is competition and a pointer of a continuously changing global landscape. For countries such as Zimbabwe it should also mean that we have means to change any circumstance that we face and beat whosoever foreign competition which may appear at present to be gaining in strength. The starting point though is to realise that one has to build the necessary muscle to fight back. It is really of no use to plunge into the wilderness while one is unprepared.
First things first. Lets use the huge amounts we are sending elsewhere to attend to Zimbabwe’s needs and then when we are fully armed we can meet the world head on. But then since we accept that we are in a free market economy, that can only happen if all of us see the link between our dollar and future. If indeed we buy local we can save jobs, create new ones and be a force to reckon with in the world. The future is in our hands.
Till we meet again, God Bless.
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