Considerations in favour of SADC industrialisation

1For all of its failings, South Africa can never be another Zimbabwe. The ZumANC might be turning into another Zanu PF, and its quite clear Robert Mugabe's misrule is the model for Jacob Zuma, but the strong institutions in the Republic down South imply that the country can never ever be another Banana republic. But not without trying..
File Pic: Jacob Zuma and President Mugabe in happier times.

By Tapiwa Mubonderi

There is a big outcry and expectation of employment creation in the public sphere of Zimbabwe. Since independence there has been a surge in urban populations due to rural to urban migration and curtailment of infant mortality.  The proliferation of social services provision such as education in particular has increased the number of people who are able and actively seeking employment.  

Overall there has been an increase in the number of people involved in informal trading activities, and these lead to challenges of expensive supply of goods, due to the multiple handling in the distribution chain and low incomes for the practitioners of it.  This is in an anomaly as in other parts of the world urbanization leads to better standard of life due to their involvement in industrial production.  

Industrialisation leads to specialisation that facilitates for economies of scale and efficiency giving those areas better incomes and lower cost of living.  Africa as one of the last places to be colonized experienced fragmented colonies due to its size and interests of all the major imperial powers of the day and its legacy has been small nation states.  Our national borders have bequeathed us with unviable economies of scale that make investments in large plants not worthwhile. In addition, the poor infrastructure means that cost of production is higher and we cannot compete globally, as unit costs will be marginally higher.

Informal markets and higher cost of living meant that labour costs will also be higher.  These things will limit the viability of the industrial sector to contribute to economic revenues. A common market will pit producers in different areas to compete and this will improve quality and cost of goods and services available. Industrialisation can be achieved by doing the following things;

  1. Delivery and implementation of large scale infrastructure development projects. These will create optimal transport, power, communication and trade channels.
  2. Supply of infrastructure projects and social services will have to be done efficiently and competition would be used to lower costs and improve efficiency.  
  3. Regional integration will create significant markets for industrial goods.  
  4. Technology transfer to the sub region so that state of the art manufacturing processes are employed.  Special Economic Zones other than mobilizing investment and foreign direct investments will facilitate this.
  5. Creation, promotion and application of local savings to spur investments, such as the measure proposed by the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe in the last monetary policy.
  6. Introducing business incubators to develop entrepreneurs to greater levels by involving the local authorities as institutions vested in the development of business in their area of governance.  
  7. Promoting of local arts and crafts activities and get them to build critical mass by creation of demand and markets for their goods and graduating them to larger orders so as to require them to automate.  
  8. Employing of the academic and technical expertise in the region towards problem solving of issues affecting specific communities. Tertiary institutions should be involved in issues that are problematic and be used to develop the knowledge available further and to make us relevant in the research sectors of the world.

When President Mugabe was SADC Chairman, Zimbabwe proposed a protocol to industrialise SADC and this is how I envision how it can be brought into reality. The regional integration programme is now seriously behind the timetable which was proposed over a decade ago and in the modern world there is no way small economies can be significant global players. Our shared heritage, experiences and aspirations should be leveraged to create a better society for the future generations.  

Former Deputy Prime Minister Aurthur Mutambara mentioned the need for looking at the big picture and creating bigger entities so that we can be relevant players in the world.  

As a generation, it is up to us to move our societies forward and create a whole different state of affairs than what was bequeathed to us. It is not easy but this is the challenge we collectively face.