FLORENCE MULEYA writes
THE build up to the 2020 Manufacturers Week was exhilarating, exciting and the Zambia Association of Manufacturers (ZAM) definitely had something to look forward to.
The 9th Annual Manufacturer’s Week was held under the theme “Economic Recovery Through Innovative Resilient Manufacturing”. brings together international and local value adders to unpack Zambia’s vast manufacturing opportunities. Additionally, key stakeholders collaboratively engage with Zambian manufacturers including policy makers in Government, captains of industry, civil society organisations and the general public, all in the effort to promote local manufacturing and support the growth of the manufacturing sector in Zambia.
Due to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2020 Manufacturer’s Week takes a twist. The 9th Annual Manufacturer’s Week will be innovatively held in the “new normal” combining virtual and physical aspects of doing business. ZAM seeks to contribute to resilience and economic recovery through innovative ways. Recognising the importance of innovation in economic development and the strategic role manufacturing plays in supporting innovation, this year’s event is centered on encouraging collaborative effort to support innovative manufacturing in Zambia. The 9th edition of the Manufacturer’s Week will explore innovation as a means of building resilience, promoting efficient and environmentally friendly manufacturing for economic recovery.
Indeed, the manufacturing sector plays a strategic role in promoting both radical and incremental innovation. According to Gault and Zhong innovation refers to creating value from knowledge through the provision of new products to the market or providing new ways of producing goods or services. Innovation also entails organising production processes better. Innovation is risky and sometimes requires huge sunk costs. These aspects of innovation are likely to discourage many players in the economy to invest in and support innovation. Therefore, entrepreneurs in manufacturing take risks to change things and drive innovation.
Since manufacturing and value addition are uptakers of innovation, they remain an important engine for innovative growth and poverty reduction in any economy. In the recent past, Zambia’s manufacturing sector’s value added as a percentage of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) has steadily grown from about 7.6% in 2010 to 8.1% of GDP in 2018, in contrast to other key Zambian sectors whose contribution to GDP has been declining such as mining (12.8% – 10.7%) and agriculture (9.4% – 5.9%) in the same period as reported by the Zambia Statistics Agency. ZAM’s goal is to enhance the manufacturing sector’s contribution to more than 30% of GDP by 2030.
However, Zambia faced tough economic conditions in 2019 and manufacturing growth plunged to 2.4%, even though the sector had contributed 4% to GDP in the previous year 2018. Despite reduced growth in 2019, the Labour Force Survey shows that the manufacturing sector’s share of total employment stood at 8.1% of the total labour force, and was the third largest employer aside the Wholesale and Retail Sector and Agriculture. Manufacturing jobs were more decent as they were less informal.
In 2020, the manufacturing sector’s growth is likely to decline further, owing to the devastating effects of the Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19). In the first quarter, even before the effects of the pandemic hit hard, the Zambia Statistics Agency revealed that growth in the manufacturing sector was only 0.3% due to tough economic conditions experienced from 2019. Going into the second quarter, the effects of COVID-19 set on the sector which contracted to a negative growth of 4.3%, affecting Governments aspirations for economic diversification and job creation. With the International Monetary Fund (IMF) projecting a contraction of 5.1% for the Zambian economy in 2020, manufacturing sectors negative performance will largely contribute to this outcome.
Nonetheless, projections disclose that the economy will recover to 0.6% in 2021. A robust manufacturing sector will play a key role in moving the economy towards recovery due to its strong backward and forward linkages with other sectors of the economy such as Agriculture, Mining, Construction, Tourism and the Wholesale and Retail Sector. Growth in the manufacturing sector is likely to foster broad-based economic recovery and speedy job creation. Hence, direct, joint, significant efforts towards supporting the growth and development of the manufacturing sector are required. That is why ZAM is playing its role by embracing innovation manufacturing for resilience economic recovery.
The week started off with a broadcast launch by the Minister of Commerce, Trade and Industry on Sunday 22 November. His reflections urged all of Zambia’s country men and women to actively participate in the Week’s activities. The Minister hit the head on the nail when he appealed to Zambian consumers, to “think local first” and promote economic growth and development of Zambia.
“Only through your participation in the activities of the week will Zambia achieve its goals of industrialization and generate the intended spillovers that support sustainable employment creation and economic growth” the Minister said.
On Monday 23rd November, the Minister of Commerce Trade and Industry was with the Manufacturers again. His unwavering support was pronounced in his speech where he made mention that the Government attaches a lot of importance to the manufacturing sector in Zambia. In vision 2030, the Government aims to increase the manufacturing sector’s contribution to GDP to 36.12% and also increase manufactured exports as a share of merchandise exports to 71% by 2030.
More importantly, the Minister recognised that achievement of the Vison 2030 targets requires the development of a resilient and innovative manufacturing sector. And pledged his support to the business community through a conducive business environment, Government policy and business development services. Manufacturers were urged by the Minister to ensure that their manufactured products were well-packaged and of high quality so as to increase the percent share of manufacturers in total merchandise exports to 71%. We vehemently thank the Minister of Commerce, Trade and Industry for his unwavering support.
A Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the Zambia Bureau of Standards and ZAM was signed in a bid to improve participation of the manufacturing sector in Standardisation and Quality Assurance (SQA) activities.
Through this MOU, both ZAM and ZABS will help improve the quality of manufactured products as well as services on the Zambian market and promote exports within the framework of legislation.
On Tuesday, the ZAM President and his Secretariat entourage went to receive a consignment of sponsorship, donations and goods from the Trade Kings Group. As the top sponsor in the Platinum category, the Trade Kings Group Director Lux Subramaniam said that ZAM had continued to be a great help in policy advocacy and was an all-weather partner to them and on this account they were happy to provide sponsorship, donations and media support worth K150,000.
Trade Kings Group was thanked by the ZAM President Ezekiel Sekele for their dedication to ensuring that the manufacturing sector in Zambia was growing. Their resilience and innovation was praised and they were urged to work with macro, small and medium enterprises to help them grow and learn from them. ZAM wishes to thank Trade Kings for their continued support to the Association.
The Manufacturer’s Week is an annual event that requires public support.
This year, the Buy Zambia Expo kicked off on Wednesday 25 November at Lusaka’s East Park Mall with events carried live on the Whova App.
Later in the week the Innovative Manufacturers Business Conference was hosted as well as a Give Back event at Lusaka Prisons.
FLORENCE MULEYA writes