INDUSTRY and Commerce minister Mike Bimha says local industries should improve on production to compete internationally as the government will not protect them from imports forever.
Responding to questions after a media briefing at the Zimbabwe International Trade Fair (ZITF) grounds last week, Bimha said there was need to appreciate that the country subscribed to regional integration and played an active role in the Southern African Development Community (Sadc), Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa) and African Union (AU).
He said the philosophy of the various regional groupings was to facilitate free movement of goods and people among states and the country would not deviate from it.
Local industries have been struggling to compete with cheaper imports and have continually called for government bans on foreign goods to enable them to recover.
But some sectors raised concerns that this would be in breach of the various agreements Zimbabwe penned with other countries and regional groupings.
“In all the trade agreements we enter into at Sadc, Comesa and AU levels, there is always that provision that in certain circumstances you can ask for a waiver and engage your friends to understand that you can’t do certain things,” said Bimha.
He said the country was negotiating with other countries that although there was a desire to buy goods from them, it had gone through a difficult period where manufacturers were unable to get funding to modernise, retool and produce competitively.
“We are on the weaker side and not at the same level with you so can you allow us for a given period, not forever, to build our industry,” added Bimha.
Despite the minister noting that industry needed support, he implored manufacturers to work hard towards self-sufficiency.
“We are telling our local manufacturers that in certain cases we have said if you want to import you need a licence in order to support our local industry, but we can’t support them for too long.
“There comes a time when we will have to say look, let’s open up because competition is healthy and in the meantime, as we are supporting you, do what you can do to improve yourselves to produce good quality products so that once we open up for competition you are ready for it.
“We are asking our partners to understand that we have to support our industries, but they have to grow up and be weaned from that and be able to compete at international level,” he said.