‘SMEs key point to succeed in Special Economic Zones’
ZIMBABWE should prioritise Small to Medium Enterprises (SMEs) as the sector is key to the successful implementation of Special Economic Zones, an official said yesterday.
Special Economic Zones (SEZs) are designated geographical regions that operate under special economic regulations that are different from other areas in the same country.
The concept is meant to offer special conditions and incentives to enhance international competitiveness as well as fostering industrial growth and development.
Parliament has approved the implementation of SEZs in order to rejuvenate the economy.
In preparation for the implementation of SEZs in different parts of the country, the Government, through the Ministry of Economic Planning and Investment Promotion, is running two workshops in Bulawayo and Harare with captains of industry.
The first meeting was held in Bulawayo yesterday while the second forum will be held tomorrow with an expert on SEZs from Japan, Professor Motoyoshi Suzuki, delivering lectures as well as sharing experiences on the concept.
“SMEs is the key point to succeed in SEZs and in Asian countries where the initiative has succeeded, 99,7 percent of the companies in SEZ regions are SMEs while 0,3 percent are big companies. And as you implement the SEZ concept here (Zimbabwe) you also need to consider SMEs.
“The key points on SEZ application isn’t to increase tax revenue but to increase foreign direct investment inflows,” he said.
Prof Suzuki said China, Japan and Thailand were some of the Asian countries where the SEZs concept had succeeded with SMEs playing a leading role.
Responding to questions from the floor, he said it would not be advisable for a country like Zimbabwe to consider the chemical industry under the SEZs.
“Chemical industries require expensive infrastructure to set up because they produce pollution. The infrastructure costs for chemical industries are more expensive to run than that for the manufacturing industry,” Prof Suzuki said.
Speaking at the same occasion, Trans-Limpopo Spatial Development Initiative co-chairperson Mr Obert Sibanda said the Matabeleland region has everything it takes to be classified under the SEZs.
“In Matabeleland region, we already have a route that is set for the SEZ. We need to utilise our inland dry port in Bulawayo while to the north in Victoria Falls and Binga that area can be classified under the tourism SEZ.
“In Lupane, we’ve coal-bed methane gas and coal reserves and down in Matabeleland South we have Beitbridge which was once an Export Processing Zone,” he said.
Mr Sibanda said while Bulawayo was once the country’s industrial hub, it should be noted that as the SEZ concept is implemented, some industries that have closed down over the years can no longer be resuscitated.
“We’ve industries that have closed down in recent years and can no longer be resuscitated. We need to appreciate that there’re industries that have been overtaken by events and those that we can turnaround are those that are financially distressed,” said Mr Sibanda. — @okazunga
Stakeholders follow proceedings during the preparatory workshop on development and operationalisation of Special Economic Zones at a Bulawayo hotel yesterday