A SOUTH AFRICAN economist, Nisha Sewdass, has urged the Zimbabwean authorities to think outside the box and in a disruptive way to rescue the nation from economic rot.
Sewdass made the remarks at the launch of the Zimbabwe National Trade Policy vision and Export Promotion Strategy in Bulawayo on Thursday last week.

The policy was launched at the ZimTrade exporters conference, which was officially opened by President Emmerson Mnangagwa.Sewdass said Zimbabwe needed to urgently devise ways to get itself out of the current economic quagmire.

Sewdass, a professor at the College of Economics and Management Science at the University of South Africa, said businesspeople should engage in disruptive thinking, surprise the market over and over with exciting, unexpected solutions and products or services.

She said according to RMB Investment statistics, Zimbabwe was ranked 34 out of 53 African countries in investment rankings in 2018.

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“This is an improvement from 2017 where Zimbabwe was ranked 45 out of 53 marking an improvement with 11 places. In investment rankings, prioritising economic activity, Zimbabwe was ranked 34 out of 53 Africans,” Sewdass said.

She said Zimbabwe, however, had a good reputation and in terms of infrastructure, it was ranked number 20 in Africa, although in ICT development indexes, it was ranked number 136 out of 176 worldwide.

“According to the global competitiveness index 2017/18, Zimbabwe was ranked 124 out of 137 countries. In goods market efficiency, it was ranked 131 out 137 countries, imports percent GDP [gross domestic product] 87 out of 137, exports GDP 97 out of 137, technological readiness 121 out of 137 and in capacity for innovation it was 90 out of 137,” the South African economist added.

She also noted that South Africa remained the largest market for Zimbabwean products, taking 52% of the total exports.

“What if the President of South Africa Cyril Ramaphosa finds cheaper markets elsewhere, what will you do when they start exporting somewhere cheaper? I urge you to diversify,” she added.

“United Arab Emirates takes 18% of the market share; other markets include Mozambique (10%), Zambia (1%), China (1%) and Botswana (1%).

“In 1992, Zimbabwe export market risk was evenly spread across the globe, most export markets were in developed countries. In 2017, South Africa (63%) was now Zimbabwe’s dominant export destination, therefore, there is no spread of risk at all,” Sewdass said.

She added that large import bill on manufactured products, export of jobs and low export earnings, export of raw materials meant that there was no development in the country’s manufacturing sector.

Sewdass warned that mineral resources are finite and continual extraction leads to depletion.
She also urged businesspeople to digitise agriculture through the use of drones as they integrated drone imagery with other data sources to develop and disseminate customised farmer advice.

Sewdass also said such technology had proved effective in Australia, Kenya and Tanzania, among others.