The Minister of Trade and Industry (dti), Rob Davies, has vowed to get to the bottom of the ban that was imposed recently by the Zimbabwean government on all South African imports, including food, hair extensions and other products.
Last month Zimbabwe imposed a unilateral ban on South African imports, and extra tax duties on exporters, claiming that the restrictions were intended to protect local industries and prevent the country becoming a “supermarket economy”.
According to Statutory Instrument 64 of 2016, which was gazetted last month, anyone importing certain listed basic commodities into Zimbabwe needed to have a permit to do so. Davies said he had been taken by surprise by the neighbouring country’s drastic decision and said that it would impact South Africa’s domestic trade negatively.
“Zimbabwe is not playing ball and seems to be in breach of the SADC (Southern African Development Community) protocol by closing borders on South African imports,” Davies said.
Davies said he would be meeting his Zimbabwean counterpart, Welsh Ncube, in a bid to get an understanding of what informed his government’s decision, or if it could be reversed. Davies was speaking at the launch of Trade Africa at the CSIR International Convention Centre in Pretoria on Friday.
He was launching the department’s platform aimed at intensifying South Africa’s exports on the continent, and encouraged local businesses to follow the guidelines for good business practices. The dti launched Trade Africa initiative – previously called Africa Export Council – to reflect the importance of facilitating intra-Africa trade more broadly in a bid to boost trade and investment among African countries.
Davies said not only did South Africa face depressed economic growth, but Africa as a whole was faced with depressed trade in general.
“South Africa is trying to identify markets for value-added products all over the world, in places like Russia and the Middle-East,” Davies said. “But Africa is our main target for these products.” Davies said Africa was destination to about 30 percent of South African exports, most of them being value-added products.
He said South African exports to African countries had increased from R6 billion in 1994 to just about R300 billion by 2015. According to the dti, the Trade Africa initiative aimed to focus on promoting two-way trade between South Africa and the rest of the continent. It is designed to support South African exporters in supplying value-added goods and services and to support South African importers in the sourcing of goods from the continent.
Davies said Trade Africa would also provide investors with intelligence and information about market conditions of individual countries in Africa. To this end, Davies encouraged South African companies operating in the rest of Africa to pledge support for the “Guidelines for Good Business Practice” which he also launched.
Davies said local companies doing business in Africa needed to be good ambassadors for South Africa by identifying the developmental trajectories of the countries in which they operated and to establish “win-win” relationships with those governments.
“You need to pay taxes and obey the laws of the countries where you are doing business. These guidelines are voluntary and not binding, but we encourage businesses to follow them,” Davies said. Lerato Mataboge, the chief executive of Trade Africa, said the initiative would be based at the dti offices in Pretoria “for now”, but would relocate to a location more closer to businesses, perhaps the JSE, once it gained momentum.