Lusaka, March 12, 2014
Regional integration is an important factor in fostering competitiveness and ultimately efficiency among small and medium businesses, said Dr Caleb Fundanga, former Governor, Bank of Zambia (BoZ).
Speaking at the 16th CUTS 30th Anniversary Lecture here on 10th March, Dr Fundanga, currently President of the Institute for Finance and Economics, said a lot needs to be done at the individual enterprise level if products were to enter the regional market.
“It is important that Zambian products must be of high quality because they will have to compete against similar products from the rest of the region. Aggressive marketing and proper branding and packaging are also key ingredients,” he added.
He however observed that Zambia’s external trade was being hampered by trade barriers and anti-competitive practices by other countries/ firms within the region.
“The scope for expanding intra regional trade in SADC exists if only South Africa can open up more to the products of other SADC member countries. South Africa still has in place a number of non-tariff barriers. A number of agricultural products from the region cannot enter the South African market for one reason or another and this reduces the scope of SMEs, “he said.
He also advised that Zambian SMEs must learn to be outgoing by learning to speak languages of potential customers as this would enhance their bargaining power in the trade process.
In view of this, Dr. Fundanga has appealed to Zambian SMEs to invest in learning additional international languages like Portuguese, French and Swahili in order to gain access to regional markets.
Speaking at the same event, former Minister of Commerce, Trade and Industry (MCTI) Commerce Hon. Felix Mutati encouraged SMEs to exploit the local markets before looking beyond borders because “a dollar was the same regardless of its source”.
Hon Mutati, who was recently elected as a member of the COMESA Committee of Elders, also raised the concerns on the growing non-tariff barriers amongst countries in the region and indicated that this was eroding the efforts being made on the free trade agreement negotiations.
Dr. Kundavi Kadirasan, World Bank Country Representative reiterated Dr. Fundanga’s sentiment that promotion of external trade was key in fostering the much needed growth through improved competitiveness and efficiency.
She added that Zambia had potential to grow its non-traditional exports especially in the field of professional services.
Mrs. Yvonne Chileshe, Director of Foreign Trade in the Zambian Ministry of Commerce, Trade and Industry, stated that regional integration would only be beneficial to the country if value added products were being sold out of the country.
She hinted that Government had identified certain viable sectors for SMEs to venture in, in its different development plans.
In view of the issue of languages raised by Dr. Fundanga, Mrs. Chileshe was of the view that, indeed, government also needed to leverage resources towards capacity building of trade negotiators in different languages.
Mr. Edwin Zulu, Project Manager of Zambia-COMESA SME Toolkit, implored government and international cooperating partners to provide practical interventions when assisting SMEs.
Speaking earlier in his welcome remarks, Mr. Rijit Sengupta, Africa Regional Director at CUTS International, stressed the important role that CUTS International played in bringing together the grassroots, government, international organisations, development partners and other key players to discuss developmental issues within the context of its focus areas which are trade, regulation and governance, all from a consumer’s perspective. CUTS Lusaka Centre Coordinator, Simon Ngona proposed the vote of thanks
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