“Buy Zimbabwe” noble initiative, but sub-standard local products threaten success

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As the “Buy Zimbabwe” campaign was busy lauding its successes (and, hopefully, also evaluating its failures) over its ten years of existence, my mother was having challenges with her second “Proudly Zimbabwean” stove in just under four years – which she bought at one of the country’s leading television, electric, and electronic equipment sales and hire outlets.

Certainly, not something that would inspire much “pride” in our local products, is it?

I am fully behind the “Buy Zimbabwe” campaign, as that is the cornerstone of our economic development – and the prosperity of its people – since, vast employment opportunities are created, improves salaries as products attain a bigger market, the country saves foreign currency by cutting down on imports, and accumulates foreign currency through exporting its own commodities.

Honestly, who would not desire that?

As a matter of fact, Zimbabwe has come a long way in this regard – especially, through its agricultural products, food and beverages, and toiletry/cosmetic products, that are indisputably of exceptional quality (their organic nature being a huge plus), and have made magnificent inroads into local, region, and global markets.

Personally, even well before the COVID-19 lockdowns – that witnessed the downsizing of a large number of manufacturing industries throughout the world, and the closure of borders, thereby significantly reducing the presence of foreign goods in different markets – I had always preferred local Zimbabwean fruits, vegetables, others foods and beverages, and for all my toiletries and body lotions.

Who can seriously doubt their originality and effectiveness, vis-a-vis mainly genetically modified “fake” imports?

Nonetheless, what gets my blood boiling is the nature of our electric and electronic products, housing, civil infrastructure, as well as other services, such as mobile network provision – as I believe they leave a lot to be desired.

Seriously, who would feel like “buying Zimbabwe” when a stove, for instance, emblazoned with a very visible image of the country’s flag, can not even properly function for a good two years?

Who would feel “proudly Zimbabwean” when all the three mobile network providers appear to be engaged in a fierce competition to determine who provides the worst service ever – characterized by dismally frustrating and infuriating persistent network challenges, difficulties in even sending and downloading simple voice notes, images, and videos (some as small as 44 kb), and very slow or complete inability to access Internet video conferencing – all of which severely hamper ease of doing business in the country?

This, without even taking into consideration the major developments being made by other regional countries in services provided on their mobile platforms, as we fail to avail even the most basic of platforms. Did you know that one could not even personalize a voicemail welcome message in Zimbabwe – that is, when that service (voicemail) is even offered by some of the operators?

Whilst, at the same time – in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the subsequent lockdowns – network coverage and accessibility is still limited and constrained, thereby, marginalizing most of the country’s population, largely disenfranchising rural communities, and pupils who can not access e-learning platforms.

Furthermore, why would anyone be confident in anything “made in Zimbabwe” when bridges, most particularly constructed after the country’s independence in 1980, are in danger of easily falling from beneath you, when crossing them, or a whole road can be washed away by a simple storm, or a school’s roof blown away by a seemingly insignificant whirlwind?

Yet, a quick look at the lifestyles of the owners of these companies would show a overly disturbing picture – as these are some of the wealthiest individuals in the country, if not the entire continent – but, can not even provide high standard, quality products and services.

They would rather be seen by all, to be “successful” entrepreneurs – through living a life of opulence – yet, are not prepared to reinvest in their companies, so as to constantly improve what they are providing their clients…who are making them filthy rich.

We can proceed further and survey how their employees are faring – and, we will see that they mostly live from hand to mouth, a significant group not even being paid regularly, not given medical aid or pensions, working under unsafe conditions, and without adequate protective equipment.

Whilst on the other hand, their employers are now “famous” for splashing cash around, their children at the most expensive schools (possibly, overseas), purchase the world’s most expensive cars, and construct mansions all across the country.

As long as such selfishness and greed, clear lack of a moral compass, and a poor grasp of good corporate governance, and international best practices, as well as a glaring absence of the respect for their customers and workers – then, this “Buy Zimbabwe” campaign is going nowhere fast, since we will always prefer foreign goods and services above our own.

In these economically trying times, why would anyone flush their hard-earned cash down the toilet by buying a locally made stove – that does not even last two years – when I could simply travel to Mussina (South Africa), and get myself one that will leave me settled for the next decade or so?

What is more troubling is that, a look around the country (and our homes) can easily prove that the only locally-made products that have withstood the test of time, and are still functioning relatively immaculately, were proudly “Made in Rhodesia”!

Local manufacturers and service providers would be foolhardy to glow in the sunshine of COVID-19 induced border closures – that have given them a false sense of success and security – but, these (borders) will inevitably be opened, sooner or later (as the pandemic is placed under control), and we will be rushing for those foreign products again, which will flood the Zimbabwean market, one way or another.

© Tendai Ruben Mbofana is a social justice activist, writer, author, and political commentator. Please feel free to contact him on WhatsApp/Call: +263715667700 / +263782283975, or Calls Only: +263733399640, or email: mbofana.tendairuben73@gmail.com

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