grace muradzikwa buy zimbabwe.jpgThe “Buy Zimbabwe Campaign” which seeking to promote consumption of locally-produced goods and services in light of the influx of imports kicks off in Harare today.

The event seeks to create a platform to lobby for necessary changes that will promote the country’s full potential for economic growth by assisting industry and commerce to respond to customer needs.

Local business has skills and knowledge to produce competitive products but these have not been adequately exploited especially in the last 10 years when the country faced economic challenges.

This has prejudiced local industry as local consumers have been buying foreign made goods.

Buy Zimbabwe Campaign Project Coordinator, Ms Elizabeth Nerwande, says the conference and the overall initiative is aimed at overcoming the weaknesses, which exist from production to marketing of local goods in order to create stronger local brands.

“What we are trying to do is to build price of the people of Zimbabwe, we need to build a Zimbabwean brand everyone can reckon with not just at local level but internationally. We are looking at a triangle which involves policy, production and consumers and the synergy has to come together,” Ms Nerwande said.

Ms Nerwande said there are policy inconsistencies which need to be overcome at business and government levels as they hamper production of quality goods.

She highlighted that customers would continue to buy the best products regardless of their origins.

The conference will also draw experiences from a similar initiative, the Proudly South Africa campaign, which was endorsed by that country’s biggest firms as well as winning the support of 92% of its population.

The conference, running concurrently with an exhibition, is being held under the theme ‘Going Beyond Words’.

It will focus on growing Zimbabwe’s local base while taking into consideration various regional trade pacts, such as Comesa Free Trade Area, to which the country is a signatory.

Among issues to be discussed would be how local companies could harmonise their operations and take advantage of the local and regional legislative environment to increase their market share. It is believed that consumers have shifted their taste towards foreign goods and services because local producers have failed to address their quality concerns.

The Reserve Bank Zimbabwe first mooted the Buy Zimbabwe initiative in 2005, although it fell by the way side due to serious shortages of local goods.

It was resuscitated last year by My Own Boss Ventures headed by Mr Munyaradzi Hwengwere which then roped in various stakeholders including the Consumer Council of Zimbabwe and Marketers Association of Zimbabwe, with NicozDiamond chief executive Mrs Grace Muradzikwa coming in as the inaugural chairperson of the programme.

The conference comes at a time when most local manufacturers are struggling to satisfy the local market.

Zimbabwe currently imports most food items from neighbouring countries, particularly Botswana and South Africa, which are relatively cheaper than local products.

South African marketer and leading communication strategist, Ms Yvonne Johnston, is one of the external speakers who are expected to participate at the conference.

One of the organisers, Mr Robert Muganda said Ms Johnston is expected to craft a road map that will ensure that Buy Zimbabwe is a success and all participants understand the economic impact of buying locally.

“She would also be making five-minute appearances at each of the cluster presentations to ensure that all clusters benefit from her knowledge,” said Mr Muganda.

Ms Johnston is highly regarded as the woman who re-branded South Africa and conference delegates will be able to tap into her vast experience as a communicator.

Other key speakers lined up for the event include Buy Zimbabwe chairperson, Mrs Grace Muradzikwa, TN Holdings group chief executive, Mr Tawanda Nyambirai and the Industrial Development Corporation general manager, Mr Mike Ndudzo.

Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries president, Mr Joseph Kanyekanye, director of Consumer Council of Zimbabwe, Ms Rosemary Siyachitema and Marketing Association of Zimbabwe president, Mr Godfrey Dube are among the speakers.

Others include the Industry and Commerce Deputy Minister, Mike Bimha and Zimbabwe Revenue Authority commissioner-general, Mr Gershem Pasi and KM Financial Solutions chief financial architect, Kenias Mafukidze.

The conference and campaign comes on the back of increasing reports that some of the imported products finding their way in to the country were hazardous to health.

Early this year a South African firm admitted to using brine to recycle chickens that were being imported and sold in the country.