SOUTH Africa’s market dominance in the region is a challenge to neighbouring countries who are struggling to compete, said Former Botswana President Ian Khama.
The former statesman who was in Bulawayo recently for the Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries (CZI) congress, said it was advisable for countries to diversify their economies and strengthen their protectionist barriers in order to protect them from powerful South African brands.
“We talk about diversification of the economy but we are in competition with everyone else, sometimes for the same product and then you have a big neighbour like South Africa next door who because of the state of their development exceeds all of ours,’ said Khama.
“That also in itself becomes a challenge when you see you are competing for the same thing but they have an advantage with all the state of infrastructure development.
“They (South Africa) have airports, seaports and their communication links, this is something that we are constantly having to cry about a lot”.
He added that although he might have had some differences with former president Robert Mugabe, he agreed with him on this issue, which he raised while serving as SADC chairperson.
“I remember one SADC meeting I once attended with former president Mugabe, who as the chairman, did raise the issue of South Africa’s dominance and also how South Africa was seeing itself as the producer and us as the consumers. We said that’s wrong,” said the former president.
He noted that it was difficult to ignore South Africa’s market presence in the region, as people from various countries would flock to that country seeking better opportunities.
“Even if you do things like that you will constantly have people wanting to go to South Africa to look for jobs and it’s in their interest that our economies are industrialised as well,” he said.
“If our economies are industrialised as well and grown it will benefit the economy as well.
Zimbabwe is no stranger to South Africa’s dominance, especially after its de-industrialisation episode.
The Zimbabwean government has tried to come up with measures to protect the local manufacturing sector from the influx of cheap goods from South Africa.
In 2016, government gazetted Statutory Instrument 64 of 2016 (SI 64) to promote the consumption of local products.