BY MTHANDAZO NYONI
QATAR Airways’ entry into the Harare–Doha route will give impetus to Zimbabwe’s export strategy, with connection problems previously faced by investors coming to an end, ZimTrade, the country’s export trade promotion body, said on Tuesday.
Qatar, the celebrated Middle Eastern carrier with connections to more than 90 countries around the globe, introduced three-weekly frequencies between Doha and Harare last month, and added Lusaka, Zambia, on the route — opening fresh opportunities for domestic exporters into one of the world’s richest regions.
In an analysis on the benefits of the launch, ZimTrade said high value perishable produce destined for Doha would be transmitted quickly.
But the connections’ advantages will be felt far beyond Doha, because of Qatar’s proximity to Dubai, which has recently emerged as a crucial hub for global trade.
“As movement of persons is a crucial enabler of increased businesses, Zimbabwean sellers will now find it easier and cheaper to connect with potential buyers in Qatar and this will go a long way in improving buyers’ confidence in local products,” ZimTrade said.
“Where previously Zimbabwean exporters were faced with hefty costs of flying goods through connecting multiple flights, there is now an opportunity to reduce cost and time. What is important now is for local exporters to understand the import structure in Qatar and requirements for landing products into the market,” it said.
Zimbabwe is seeking to diversify its export base, and analysts see an increase in trade between Harare and the Middle East as the catalyst to this strategy, which is key to overturning trade deficits.
According to Trade Map, Qatar imported products worth around US$25,8 billion in 2020, most of them coming from the United States of America, China, United Kingdom, Germany, India, Italy and Turkey.
“Of the top imported products in Qatar, Zimbabwean exporters have an opportunity to supply an array of products in sectors such as horticulture, household and furniture products, meat, essential oils, and pharmaceuticals,” ZimTrade said.
“Supply of fruit and nuts is one of the low hanging fruits for local farmers, who can tap into the US$308 million import value recorded last year. Here, local farmers can ride on Zimbabwe’s reputation as the source of quality products of better taste compared to competition.”
Apart from fruit and nuts, ZimTrade said there was a viable market for edible vegetables and certain roots and tubers.
“The local agricultural sector, that is undergoing massive transformation, has potential to produce most of the imported products in Qatar. There is also a high demand for household furniture in Qatar, including beds, mattresses, lamps and lighting fittings,” it said.
Trade Map said last year Qatar imported unspecified furniture products worth US$246,9 million.
“As Qatar is a high-income country, the market has a taste for high-end products. Thus, local furniture producers will need to focus on unique and modern designs that will compete against competition,” the organisation said.
“Functional art in the form of furniture will also make it easy for local producers to secure a market in the sector. Considering that furniture products are bulk in nature and will require ocean freight, local manufacturers must produce collapsible modular designs that can be easily assembled at the final market or by the end user at their home. This way, producers will reduce the cost per unit in production and transportation and this will make Zimbabwe-produced furniture products competitive in the market,” it said.
Current top furniture exporting countries that local producers will compete with are China, Turkey, and Italy.