Holding a Zimbabwean trade fair in Malawi next week is an important development for both countries as the region and Africa in general move towards accelerated economic growth based in part on national expansion but also on gains from increased trade and trade liberalization.
ZimTrade planned the process right, helping businesses that can find new markets in Malawi if they have the right products at the right price, but also highlighting what Zimbabwean businesses can buy in Malawi. Trade cannot be a one-way street.
There may still be vestiges of the “old days”, the Decade of Federation of No Regrets, when Malawi was seen as an underdeveloped country ripe for exploitation. This attitude will not attract any Zimbabwean business, even on the doorstep.
What is needed is to understand that Malawi has grown rapidly, especially over the past quarter of a century after the country has gone through major economic reforms, and has a lot to offer both in the markets and in its own products. It might be worth noting that one of Zimbabwe’s oldest and largest banks is headquartered in Malawi if you want an indication of the sophistication of this market.
Zimbabwean exporters are going to have to work for customers. But they start with a number of advantages. They presumably developed products for very similar customers operating under very similar conditions in Zimbabwe, so they have something that is salable.
Second, with fairly short production runs, they can tailor a product to any special requirements and conditions, working with their customers on those requirements. For this and other reasons, some exhibitors might need a production person on their sales team as well as pure members of sales and finance. It’s easy to predict a potential customer by saying something like “this is a great product but…”.
They might even find a Malawian company that wants to partner with local content and assembly and they need to be able to address those issues at the show.
Third, they will have to offer the best after-sales service. Zimbabwe is just a stone’s throw from Malawian customers. Zimbabwean businesses therefore start their calculations with near-same-day or two-day delivery, which is important when reviewing rush orders and even more so when discussing after-sales service. service and things like spare parts, which are usually wanted yesterday.
As always, sales require the right product, at the right price, and with first-class support, pretty much what the best Zimbabwean companies have already developed for their own local markets.
There is, even in this modern era of free trade, a lingering mercantilist background rumor, that more trade for one country means someone else loses and, therefore, trade is a matter of business. zero sum. This assumes that markets do not develop, but all the evidence of trade liberalization shows that this process helps accelerate market growth.
Equally important is the other half of the ZimTrade program, aimed at expanding Malawi’s exports to Zimbabwe. Malawi is already a major supplier of agro-industrial raw materials and could potentially provide more.
One factor to consider in any inter-African trade is the effects of climate change. The transition from stronger El Ninos seasons to stronger La Nina seasons is one where more trade can solve many problems. During an El Niño, Southern Africa tends to experience drought, while Eastern Africa tends to have above average rainfall. During the Nina it is reversed. Malawi tends to win on both sides.
It doesn’t take much more than very good cooperation at all levels, national and business, to create the partnerships that can at least ensure regional self-reliance.
Either way, buying products from a close neighbor, rather than from South America, for example, keeps our money in the area and that means we have customers with money they might want to spend. here, rather than selling and buying from us in their own area.
With all the economic changes that have taken place in the region in recent years, with Zimbabwe unfortunately being a laggard in reform but now one of its most enthusiastic converts, regional markets have grown strongly and regional suppliers have become better and more prolific.
This opens up more and more opportunities for companies that are aware of what is going on and can work profitably under the growing development, as well as the growing development as a whole.
Political leaders can help set the conditions and make integrated development faster and better. The trade deal between Malawi and Zimbabwe in 1995, never really exploited by any of the partners, is an example of this and the difficult task of converting all these small local trade deals and agreements into the new African free trade area is under way. much of a political process.
But politicians cannot take the next step. More trade, more production, more sales is the function of companies that take advantage of political openings.
National leadership can help businesses get through the door, but then businesses have to knock and have something to sell, and once again, we’ve gone back to the old principle of the right product at the right price with, a good after-sales service and an ability to keep all promises made by the sales team.