DAVOS – Department of Trade and Industry (dti) Minister Rob Davies yesterday added his voice to growing calls for measures to assist Zimbabwe’s economy, charging that it was in the interests of South Africa and the rest of the continent to see stability in the embattled southern African nation.
Minister Davies told Business Report, on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum (WEF) meeting in Davos, Switzerland, that Zimbabwe needed assistance to reignite its collapsed economy.
He said South Africa could play a role in helping Zimbabwe cope with its demand for imports.
“A stable economic environment in Zimbabwe can only benefit the rest of the continent,” Davies said.
Zimbabwe has been plagued by currency shortages as the economy limps from one problem to another, with most foreign-based companies threatening to pull out of the country because of the shortages.
The country is also battling to move away from foreign exchange controls and allocations as well as subsidies as it embraces open-market policies to grow the economy, which continues to struggle with government deficits and foreign exchange shortages.
The country’s economy is projected to grow 3.1 percent this year against the backdrop of revenues amounting to $6.6 billion (R91.74bn) and a deficit of about $1.6bn.
Last week, President Emmerson Mnangagwa hiked fuel by up to 150 percent in a bid to tackle shortages, a move that sparked nationwide anti-government protests that saw at least 12 people killed and nearly 100 treated for gunshot wounds.
Finance Minister Mthuli Ncube has also said that the government was planning to rein-in inflation, cut the budget deficit and settle arrears to creditors in order to be able to borrow again.
Mncube said the government would also introduce expenditure cuts for senior civil servants and lay the groundwork for further revenue consolidation.
However, South Africa has been steadfast in its support for its neighbour’s economic reform programmes, with President Cyril Ramaphosa and International Relations Minister Lindiwe Sisulu this week saying that the country should be given as much support as possible.
Davies said the government’s determination to address existing challenges has seen investors taking a long-term view on South Africa and the African content.
He said the continent needed to put its own interests first and create opportunities for especially the youth and small businesses in the wake of continuing trade wars, instability and a complex global environment.
Davies said programmes such as the implementation of the Free Trade Agreement, greater inclusivity, producing higher value products, the new automotive programme and the successful initiatives implemented in the mining sector would bring better opportunities for the continent.
“The dti is in particular excited about assisting companies in the areas of technology in line with the Fourth Industrial Revolution that will entail a new skill set. South Africa needs a Digital Industrial Policy addressing issues such as access to infrastructure, and the cost of data,” he said.