The local manufacturing sector has for the past two decades or so since liberalisation of the Zambian economy, been facing numerous challenges due to stiff competition from cheap imports that have chocked the market.
This has also paralysed the textile industry which is now non existent because of the thriving salaula (second hand clothing) trade in which hundreds of people have been rendered jobless.
What is mind boggling is the fact that companies and other entities have even resorted to importing finished products including raw materials that can easily be obtained locally.
Apart from that, these same products can be produced right here in Zambia provided that the sector is given incentives that it urgently requires to operate on a level playing ground with other foreign competitors.
Some of the measures that the local manufacturing industry is calling for are the ban on importation of the goods and services that are posing a threat to the development of the sector as well as, zero-rating duty on certain inputs in the production of some products.
In the absence of these, it will be very difficult for the local manufacturing industry to record any significant developments, as available data indicates that the sector’s growth rate over the years, has been hovering between three and five per cent per annum.
This is not very healthy for the industry which can generate massive employment opportunities that are being created in other countries from where finished products, services and raw materials are coming.
It is in this regard that, the Zambia Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ZACCI) should be given a hearing over calls for the Government to quicken the issuance of a Statutory Instrument (SI) which will restrict importation of raw materials and finished products that can be obtained locally.
ZACCI’s appeal through its vice president-north Raj Karamchand comes on the heels of a recent announcement by Commerce, Trade and Industry deputy Minister Miles Sampa, who issued a one month ultimatum for companies in the manufacturing industry to stop importing raw materials and products that are readily available on the local market.
Government further warned that failure to abide by the directive will culminate in the issuance an SI that will enforce such a ban.
This is very important for the local manufacturing industry which needs attention from the Government for it to revamp.
Once the Government acts, it will strengthen and widen the country’s manufacturing base with emphasis on the backward and forward linkages in primary, secondary and tertiary sectors.
Given the country’s abundant resource base, Government’s strategic focus should be in the revamping of the manufacturing sector, giving more impetus on the growth of small-scale industries as engines for economic development in order to enhance value addition, create more employment and reduce high poverty levels.
The local manufacturing industry should be the largest employer coming only second to the mining sector and this why measures must be taken by the Government on the issuance of an SI without any further delay. -OPINION