HARARE – Botswana is seeking ways to bolster its economic and trade cooperation with Zimbabwe in various sectors, the country’s trade promotion body has said.
Botswana Industry and Trade Centre (BITC) said there is potential to double trade between the two southern African countries, which currently stands at $333 million to over $660 million.
The trade promotion body’s market intelligence manager, Tiroyaone Sirang, said a large portion of trade between the two countries, however, appears to be transit trade in the motor industry rather than products actually manufactured in Botswana.
Sirang noted that there was need for Botswana firms to take advantage of opportunities presented by the Zimbabwean household textile sector and export products such as T-shirts and towels, juices, cereals, sugar, confectionary, pasta, pipes and hoses, salt, toiletries, cosmetics and cleaning products.
“Others include live animals, meat and meat products as there is demand for deboned meat and swine as well as medicaments like veterinary medicines, paper and articles including packaging like toilet paper, sacks, bags of paper,” he added.
On the other hand, Zimbabwe mainly exports wood and wood articles, wood charcoal, sulphur, earths and stone, plastering material and cement and agricultural produce.
The latest development comes as Botswana is embarking on an economic diversification strategy to reduce its overreliance on diamonds.
The southern African nation, since shaking off Britain’s colonial yoke in 1966, has marched into the ranks of upper-middle income countries and forged a stable political culture using the proceeds of its diamond industry to slash poverty.
While citizens look with relative satisfaction on half a century of development, the future looks less certain as the crucial diamond mines yield fewer and fewer stones with estimates suggesting reserves could run out by 2050.
This has forced Botswana to reassess its one-track growth model and has been making efforts to diversify its economy.
Sirang said his organisation conducted a survey to explore and develop entirely new markets while at the same time enhancing the existing markets access for Botswana exports into Zimbabwe.
However, relations between the two nations have remained frosty as Botswana’s president, Ian Khama repeatedly criticises his Zimbabwean counterpart.
In September last year, Khama renewed a feud with President Robert Mugabe, the ailing nonagenarian who has impoverished Zimbabwe through his disastrous policies, again urging him to step down.
Sirang said for one to export to Zimbabwe, there are bilateral agreements that allow exemption from customs duties as long as goods satisfy minimum 25 percent local content.
Botswana firms which trade with Zimbabwe include Botash, which exports salt, Chloride Botswana which sells batteries, while O3 Beverages exports bottled water and BMC sells canned beef.
Among some of the strategies identified by the study to penetrate the Zimbabwean market include the advantage of the Plumtree Border Post, which is faster and has less traffic compared to Beitbridge border.
The study also identified Harare and Bulawayo as the two major hubs that should be targeted, as they constitute 50 percent and 20 percent of total consumption respectively.
However, results of the survey are likely to face stiff challenges as Zimbabwe, once a big importer, recently introduced import restrictions.