The coronavirus (Covid-19) has changed the world as we used to know it.
Global supply chains have been severely disrupted, while nationhood, which we were increasingly taking for granted in a world that had evolved into a global village, has been put under the strictest of scrutiny and test.
Ultimately, globalisation has been found wanting.
Countries are asserting sovereign authority where the health of their people is concerned.
In Africa, both regional and continental bodies have quite noticeably played second fiddle to national authority.
It has been the same in Europe and America.
What has become evident is that African countries — which have long been fed on a diet of liberalisation that entails unconditionally opening borders, with the result that their agriculture and industrial sectors have been decimated — are now in serious trouble.
For Zimbabwe, there are lessons to learn from the fallout from this pandemic.
Over the years, we have been importing goods worth US$5 billion to US$8 billion annually that ordinarily could be produced locally.
This includes maize, soyabeans, toothpicks, onions and tomatoes.
The disruption in global supply chains has shown us how wrong we were.
When countries, including key source markets, close their borders, we have to depend on our own internal resources and capacities.
This explains the reason why most, if not all, major economies have come up with their own measures to stimulate national production, save jobs and support small- to medium-scale enterprises.
On March 30 2020, Zimbabwe went into a 21-day lockdown, and this was three days after South Africa.
In South Africa, when shops reopen, their number one priority will be to restart factories and ensure that, even though their country has been downgraded by ratings agency Moody’s, their currency (the rand) is not only preserved but directed to unlocking national value.
In Zimbabwe, which is plagued by a suboptimal agricultural sector and a manufacturing industry operating at less than 40 percent capacity, chances are when the country reopens, the little savings that we have will be funnelled to South Africa and China as supermarkets rush to restock and industry tries to import critical raw materials.
We must, therefore, ensure that our factories do not close their doors forever.
So the fundamental question is: how then do we envisage a future that is less import-dependent and more productive for the national good?
This is exactly what we should be thinking about in the next two weeks.
Let us make no mistake about it, in the post-coronavirus era, countries will be making every effort possible to recover lost ground, rebuild their health systems and reopen their businesses.
God has been kind for giving us temporary reprieve so that we can all reflect on what each one of us needs to do to build a better future.
We dare not squander the time we still have.
We also need to draw lessons of weaknesses that are inherent in our informal sector as currently configured, where most entrepreneurs do not have any savings and are totally delinked from national institutions that provide social protection and insurance.
A lot has been said about local content and ensuring that those that produce locally are rewarded.
This is still more of an idea and less of a reality.
During the lockdown period, the various ministries must get to work and produce a package that ensures that resources are not directed to luxuries and unnecessary imports, but to industry and agriculture.
We must ensure the local mining industry’s aspirations to grow into a US$12-billion sector by 2023 is tied to procuring locally.
Presently, 20 percent of the sector is buying locally, while the remainder rely on foreign markets.
Revenues generated from less than a fraction of that procurement value can be used to ensure well-equipped hospitals.
Indeed there is value in supporting the Buy Zimbabwe campaign.
The same commitment we have shown in locking down the country for 21 days should be the same we should exhibit on bread-and-butter issues going forward.
A productive nation not only guarantees its citizens protection in times of crisis but gives them a decent life.
We have seen how developed countries have the capacity to provide stimulus packages because they have the resources.
After 21 days in lockdown, we must move to 21 days, if not 21 months, of productivity.
This article was written by the YAFM Chairman Munyaradzi Hwengwere and was published in the Sunday Mail on the 5th of April.
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