SADC Member States not committed to private sector development’ – Industrialist
HARARE – The Southern African Development Community (SADC) has shown very little commitment to the importance of genuine private sector engagement, an industrialist has said.
This comes as SADC Heads of State, who recently held an Extraordinary Summit in Swaziland approved the Costed Action Plan for SADC Industrialisation Strategy and Roadmap 2015-2063 and underscored the role of the private sector as a key player in the implementation of the SADC industrialisation agenda.
President of the Association of SADC Chambers of Commerce and Industry, who is also Chairman of the Business Council of Southern Africa, Oswell Binha, however said SADC Member States are intimidated by the existence of organized business as well as credible private sector players for reasons best known to themselves.
“Many initiatives and programs have been attempted at regional level meant to increase Public-Private Dialogue at Member States level and there has been very little or no success. For example, we currently have a requirement for formulation of national committees, whose composition is both public and private sector representatives. Zimbabwe is yet to facilitate creation of these”, said Binha. He said SADC Member States do not have domestic regional policy and that the state of affairs makes it difficult for the private sector to accrue optimum benefits from regional economic initiatives.
He added that the local industry is currently not adequately informed about the SADC Industrialisation Strategy and Roadmap. “Local industry is currently seized with reconfiguring themselves to respond to the ever-changing business environment for own survival. Their main focus is to navigate the multiplicity of operational challenges to, at least, remain in business”
“Regional industrialization roadmap is very foreign to them. If government wishes to ensure local productive sectors benefit from such grand initiatives, conditions for company growth rather than survival must underpin national economic strategy. The assumption that companies can compete with regional peers on both quality and price is misplaced”, he said.
“The dichotomy is that Zimbabwe, though credited with redefining the SADC regional agenda from predominantly political and regional security matters to productivity, value addition and beneficiation of our commodities, has done very little to exploit the abundant opportunities that come with it. Change of regional economic discourse will inevitably increase and facilitate regional value added exports”, said Binha.
He said very little is at the local industry’s disposal to exploit so as to enhance their ability to become critical regional players; adding that policy dispensation, among other tools, is inward looking.
“A number of key companywide administrative tools have since become macro in nature. Purchasing and cash management now resides with monetary authorities. Company managers can no-longer determine delivery times and costs of products and services. Key economic enablers remain insufficient and expensive. Overregulation of company activities is the order of the day among other problems”, he bemoaned.
He however said that the local industry may engage in creation of regional or regionally facilitated markets; adding that the country should strive to reclaim lost markets as well as development of new ones. “This is only possible if the country seizes itself with efforts to develop productive sectors. The propensity to informalize industry is ill informed. No informal sector survives in isolation from large reputable formal industry”, he said.
Binha said the development of productivity related infrastructure is key, adding that benchmarking local industry’s processes and procedures with external industrial players allows companies to create their own niche that allows them to integrate themselves in national, regional and global value chains, with huge potential for local up and down stream synergies.
He said that there are a number of support measures that government can implement to abet the role that industry can play.
“Firstly, government must stop listening to its own voices. Creation of a solid and credible private sector engagement platform will ensure fluidity of implementation of economic policy with commitment and buy in from economic players. Government must also simplify the regulatory and legislative environment to enhance voluntary compliance with all regulatory requirements”, he said.
He also called for government to streamline its activities to respond to the need for economic efficiency. “The mere fact that each state institution has basically become a revenue collector presents a premium on the cost of doing business. State structures must move from enforcement to facilitation. The carrot side of the state function must be larger than the stick”, said Binha.
He said the State’s role should be to create an environment necessary for growth and development of productive sectors, adding that anything outside that remains a recipe for disaster. “Zimbabwe, like most of its peers in the region, is notorious for creating political enmity with those who own the means of production. The state will never replace private players in any economy. It can only create an enabling environment for the private business to thrive, hence widening of a revenue collection base”, he said.
“Developmental states create opportunities for unlimited capacity for innovation and creativity leading to industrial development with broad scope to utilize indigenous knowledge systems among other various benefits. The status quo is leading us to either a gradual economic decline or a sudden economic collapse”, he added.