Zimbabwe can’t pride itself on economic growth built on sub-standard products

It is always delightful news learning of the resurgence of our local productive sector - which not only translates into most-needed employment for the millions of jobless Zimbabweans, but also economic growth, that will tremendously benefit the country as a whole.

Tendai Ruben Mbofana

 

With local products now reportedly making up 80% of all goods and services on our markets – that, certainly is a welcome and wonderful development.

In fact, we eagerly await the time our own “Proudly Zimbabwean” products make it onto the regional and global market – which will earn the country precious foreign currency, badly required in an economy currently burdened by a local currency that has failed to stand the test of economic fundamentals.

However, there is always one critical factor that determines the success of any product… quality.

Not just quality – but, exceptional quality.

There is no way a country can pride itself with the revamping of its local productive sector – be it in agriculture, mining, manufacture, or any other – when the goods and services produced are of a mediocre and sub-standard quality.

Yet, this is tragically and most unfortunately what is currently pertaining in Zimbabwe – as we have local products that leave a lot to be desired.

The cardinal principle of economic fundamentals is supply and demand – and, if we are to build an economy on shoddily-produced goods and services, then that “growth” is akin to a fool’s house constructed on sand, since these will, inevitably, dismally fail the ultimate demand test.

Let us not forget that, the current excitement over a marked increase in local products on our markets is predominantly premised on COVID-19 restrictions that affected both cross-border travel (whereby, informal and formal traders would bring in mostly finished goods from neighboring countries), and manufacturing industries in other regional states that are still feeling the adverse effects of repeated lockdowns.

There is nothing more disappointing than buying a “Made in Zimbabwe” product – with our national flag proudly embossed on the front – only for it not lasting more than a month or two, yet fellow foreign-manufactured competitors going on strongly for years.

I have personally experienced this with electric and electronic products, on endless occasions – whose fail rate has left me with a deep-seated phobia of anything written “Proudly Zimbabwean”.

Nonetheless, this sub-standard goods and services provision also touches other sectors, such as mobile network operation – whereby, our operators no longer appear motivated in providing and even pioneering world-class services, yet never tiring in increasing tariffs with maddening regularity.

These days it is hardly surprising going for days with one, two, or even all three MNOs without any functional network, or only operating at their very minimal.

We can also look at standards in costumer relations within both our private and public sectors – where, those charged with interacting with clients appear to regard these as sworn enemies, who should be treated with disdain and disgust, as queries are either ignored outrightly, or responses are defensive and plainly rude.

This is in spite of the indisputable mediocre and shameful workmanship in these institutions and companies.

The current so-called Emergency Road Rehabilitation Program (ERRP2) by the government of Zimbabwe – which was touted as a “game changer” – only proved to be a sheer waste of time and precious taxpayers’ money, since the supposedly “rehabilitated” roads rapidly reverted to their old potholed selves.

Instead of the government immediately admitting the unacceptable and condemnable work – they opted for the route of blaming unseen faceless “detractors”, who somehow, were supposed to have gone around towns and cities digging up these roads, in order to “tarnish the image of the country”.

If the authorities had swiftly heeded voices of dissatisfaction from the general public – whose tax dollars paid for the work, and who use these roads on a daily basis – millions, if not billions, would not have been wasted.

We can also highlight several other infrastructural developments – which appeared amazing and applaudable at first sight, such as bridges, schools, office complexes, and even residential houses – but, whose lifespan was abruptly cut short after some otherwise normally harmless rains and floods.

Even a visit to my former primary school in Redcliff can tell a shocking story of an EDC (early childhood development) classroom block that was commissioned only three or so years ago, yet is already falling apart, and now appears older compared to the ones we learnt in in the 1980s.

The question I have is – where is the SAZ (Standards Association of Zimbabwe), and CCZ (Consumer Council of Zimbabwe), who are mandated with ensuring that set system and product standards are strictly respected and religiously adhered to?

How are we to compete as a nation when, even us (citizens of Zimbabwe) are already yearning for those good old foreign goods and products?

How will our local productive sector survive in the face of imminent stiff competition, as more borders reopen, and other countries’ manufacturing industries regain their pre-pandemic levels – more so, as the AfCTA (Africa Continental Free Trade Area), which came into effect on January 1, 2021, goes into full throttle?

Is it not embarrassing when machinery, equipment, and household gadgets still operational today are marked “Made in Rhodesia”?

Surely, we can not pride ourselves on economic growth based on sub-standard mediocre products!

© Tendai Ruben Mbofana is a social justice activist, writer, and social commentator. Please feel free to contact him on WhatsApp/Call: +263715667700 / +263782283975, or Calls Only: +2637988897936 / +263733399640, or email: [email protected]

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