EFFORTS to grow bilateral trade between Zimbabwe and the Democratic Republic of Congo are expected to top discussions at the outward seller mission, which opens today in Lubumbashi.

The mission, organised by ZimTrade — the country’s trade development and promotion agency — and running from May 18-20, 2022, is designed to strengthen linkages between Zimbabwean exporters and buyers in the DRC.

The outward seller mission will start with a business conference, followed by a series of business-to-business meetings and companies that will end on 20 May.

ZimTrade chief executive officer, Allan Majuru, said the programme feeds into the Government’s thrust of increasing engagements with country’s in the region and beyond.

Mr Majuru said the calls by President Mnangagwa for greater ties between Zimbabwe and other African countries should result in increased visibility of Zimbabwean products in regional markets such as the DRC.

“We have seen increased engagements between President Mnangagwa and his counterparts in the region, and discussions have focused on trade, investment and tourism.

“For businesses, these engagements should culminate in increased exports as well as strengthened engagements with partners in the region.

“The outward seller mission, which starts today, is crucial in that it creates a platform for local businesses to engage with buyers and potential distributors who will help push their products in Lubumbashi,” he said.

Mr Majuru further said leveraging opportunities found in Lubumbashi would make it easy for local businesses to unlock export opportunities available in the DRC.

“Considering that Lubumbashi is the commercial hub of DRC, there is room for local companies to use the region as a gateway to the rest of the country.

“What is important now is to create linkages with big and reputable distributors and use their existing networks to access the rest of the country,” he said.

Furthermore, Mr Majuru said this follow-up trade promotion activity to the one held last year was designed to further boost trust between Zimbabwean exporters and partners in Lubumbashi.

“Export business requires heightened levels of trust between businesses in the two countries and continued engagements will create preferences for Zimbabwean products when Lubumbashi buyers and distributors are making import decisions.”

At last year’s event, Zimbabwean companies recorded deals worth more than US$13 million during the event.

Some of the local companies have already started fulfilling those orders, whilst others are at an advanced stage of negotiations.

This year, Zimbabwe-Outward Seller Mission to Lubumbashi will see 22 Zimbabwean companies engage with more than 100 potential buyers and distributors from leading businesses in DRC.

Discussions will focus on market requirements and best options for local companies to land their products and services in Lubumbashi, and the rest of DRC.

Participating companies are drawn from sectors such as horticulture, processed foods, building and construction, mining, and engineering services.

Other sectors represented at the Mission are agricultural inputs and implements, protective wear, and information and communication technologies and services.

With regards to the targeted market, Lubumbashi presents a lucrative market for Zimbabwean products.

For Zimbabwean companies that enjoy the advantage of distance, and regional trade relations, the potential for their products to land in the market at a competitive price is big.

Some of the low-hanging fruits in terms of potential products are processed foods, where Zimbabwe can ride on an advanced industry compared to Lubumbashi.

Local products such as sweets, yoghurt, biscuits, cheese, tinned foods, peanut butter, honey, sugar, and cooking oil, soap, washing powder can compete well in Lubumbashi.

The horticulture sector also provides huge opportunities for Zimbabwean farmers. All horticultural produce, particularly fresh produce and fruits, currently being exported by Zimbabwean farmers have potential to perform well in Lubumbashi.

In addition, Lubumbashi just like the rest of the DRC has been moving towards modernising the agriculture sector and this creates opportunities for Zimbabwean companies to supply appropriate technologies.

Required products that local businesses can supply include hand-held farming equipment, tractors, cultivators, and planters.

In addition, a survey by ZimTrade indicated that most of the rural small-holder farmers do not have livestock such as cattle or donkeys to provide animal-drawn implements.

This deficit, therefore, presents an opportunity for Zimbabwe to consider both livestock and agricultural implement exports.

As Lubumbashi is modernising, several construction projects are seen throughout the city and these show huge potential for Zimbabwe products.

Contractors already have high regard for Zimbabwean products, which are considered strong and reliable and local producers can ride on this to increase exports.

Zimbabwean products with potential include door frames, window frames, floor tiles, fence, roofing tiles, bricks, PVC pipes, gum poles, timber, fasteners, bathroom boutique products and electrical products.

Services offered in the building and construction sector, including engineering services, also have potential in Lubumbashi.

Further to this, the mining sector has much more to benefit from opportunities in Lubumbashi.

Products with potential include separators, material handling feeders, mine ventilation, draglines, tyres, mining support vehicles, drills and earth moving equipment and power generation machinery.

Also required in the mines are electrical equipment and consumables that include transformers, electric motors, cables, batteries, ventilation fans and general electrical consumables.

Mines with active projects for exploration are interested in structural steel and cement as well as materials used for processes that include aluminium powder, ammonia, anodes and cathode, caustic soda, coal and cobalt sulphate.

The mining sector in the country also requires protective clothing that Zimbabwean clothing companies can supply. Products with potential include overalls, work suits safety boots, gloves, helmets, and eye protection equipment such as safety goggles.

Zimbabwean companies are already producing competitive and quality PPEs in the form of overalls, work suits, gloves, masks, aprons, dust coats and reflective clothing items.

By comparison to products coming from other countries, the quality of Zimbabwe-produced protective clothing is high and preferred by most companies.

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