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‘Brexit an opportunity for Zimbabwean businesses’

The country’s business sector has been urged to see opportunity in Britain’s departure from the European Union (EU), as the move can create a host of economic opportunities for Zimbabwe.

According to industrialist and oil manufacturer, Busisa Moyo, these opportunities are a chance to deepen and expand economic ties between Zimbabwe and other global countries.

Addressing marketers at their 11th Annual Marketers’ Convention hosted by Marketers Association Zimbabwe (MAZ), Thursday, Chief Executive Officer of Bulawayo-based United Refineries Limited, Moyo, explained Brexit could be a driver of growth for Zimbabwe and boost economic opportunities.

“Private sector conversations are important in helping us locate where the private sector is and would like to go. As Zimbabwe, we are caught up what is going on around us and forget that we are a country in a global context,” he said.

Moyo, also a member of the Presidential Advisory Council (PAC), noted it was important for the country to scan for global opportunities instead of looking within.

“In order to understand ourselves, the population in Zimbabwe at best is 17 million in a 7.5 billion global population. That is a small fraction statistically of what is going on. It is very instructive and important to understand that we have things like Brexit. These are opportunities,” said the industrialist.

He added that despite the political uncertainty surrounding Brexit’s departure, as businesspeople they saw opportunities for making profits.

“There are problems in some areas but they also have an opportunity side. I think Brexit is an opportunity. It is a total surprise to me as I don’t understand why the UK has decided to exit the EU and I don’t fully understand it but I am a businessman so I look at the opportunities that are available and presented by events or processes such as Brexit. Brexit is one of those opportunities for our country,” Moyo said.

The oil manufacturer said Brexit presented opportunities for local companies to move their products into both Britain and the EU.

“I’ve been engaging with the British ambassador to say you probably need to have a conversation with the private sector and unpack opportunities that a Brexit would present for the private sector.

“Some of the things that come to my mind, which you may not all be aware of this, but a lot of our food that we produce is GM free (not genetically modified). Our soya bean is still GM free so this creates opportunities because non-genetically modified foods are very popular,” he said, adding that in a previous trip to the United States GM free foods commanded a premium of about 10 to 15 percent on the shelves.

Moyo added that even the oil sector could locate itself in the mix.

“I found that besides mechanically extracted oil, which is what most what you see in this market, we also have cold pressed cooking oil. This means you don’t heat or add any more chemicals to the process of producing cooking oil. When you do that you are looking at 20 to 30 percent premium on the shelves,” said the industrialist.

“These are some of the things that I think a Brexit scenario starts to present in terms of linking what we produce, our style of production and some of our policies because at the moment, the cooking oil that you buy is just cooking oil. There’s no distinction that it is made from GM free products, but you will all complain that it is expensive,” he joked.

Moyo said Zimbabwe had an opportunity as a country to plug into local value chains and besides Brexit, the trade wars between the US and China also created opportunities for producers.

“We can leverage and plug into these value chains and make sure our products are not just looking at Zimbabwe in Africa but looking at plugging in at the global supply chain and take advantage of what we produce.”

He added that Zimbabwe was still competitive, it was just a matter of seizing opportunities.

“Did you know that in spite of the fact that we are non GM free country, our yields per hectare are still very competitive? In fact South Africa, which uses GM varieties have yields of about 2.2 metric tonnes per hectare yet Zimbabwe has about 2. 09 metric tonnes of non GM per hectare. This shows the potential that is in this country.

“The challenge we have in this sector is scale, not methods, not seed varieties, not GM varieties but just scale to do what we do on a wider scale with the global developments that are happening.  Soya is one of those global crops and I think we can plug into value chains,” said the oil manufacturer.

Brexit is the scheduled withdrawal of the UK from EU after a 2016 referendum, in which 51.9 percent of the population voted to leave.

This kick-started the British government’s process of withdrawal that is yet to be concluded.

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