The year 2020 was characterised by the COVID-19 pandemic that hit not only Zimbabwe but the rest of the World. The pandemic continues to weigh on business, and resulted in the disruption of global supply chains for both raw materials and final products and services and a slowdown of global financial flows. Dr Tinashe Manzungu The Zimbabwe National Chamber of Commerce recognises the role that business plays to achieve our shared goal during this crisis, to maintain jobs and business continuity; to support health, stability and social well-being of the Zimbabwe populace. Despite the effects of the pandemic the Chamber continued and continues to make strides in servicing its members given that business is the antidote for an economic recovery, hence this report outlines achievements by the Chamber during the year 2020. Over the year, the Chamber continued to engage with policy makers and engagements continued to provide a harmonious and productive working relationship between Government and the Private Sector. While the year has been characterised by the effects of the covid-19 pandemic, the Chamber acknowledges efforts by the Government in addressing constraints on the economic front. These include;
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Mandatory employee testing for Covid 19 before reopening of businesses
After the extension of the National Lockdown by Government by a further two weeks, the Chamber recognises the importance testing in order to contain the spreading of the Covid-19 pandemic. Meanwhile, following the announcement of a Plan to Operationalize the Policy on a Mandatory Employee Testing for Covid19 before reopening of businesses which stated the Testing logistics where companies are set to procure approved Covid-19 rapid test kits for themselves, in line with specifications provided by the Ministry of Health and Child Care; the Chamber would like to make the following submissions;
i. While it is important to conduct the testing and prevent the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic, compulsory testing before going to work is an expense to Businesses given that the pandemic has already weighed on business operations and most businesses had not been operating over the past 35 days.
From the ZNCC Survey, which was conducted over the first 21 days national lockdown, to capture the impact of the pandemic from various private sector players - businesses indicated that they have lost a lot of revenue with the pandemic having had some negative impacts on most sectors of the economy. Of the 210 survey respondents; businesses indicated that they have lost a lot of revenue due to the pandemic 27% of the respondents have lost revenue above $5m, 8% lost revenue of between $3m-$5m 17% lost revenue of between $1m-$3m, 48% lost revenue of below $1m Given the loss in monetary terms above, most businesses are not in a position to carry the costs for the testing of employees
ii. Cost of reopening Businesses – around US$50 million will be required to re-open businesses in level 2 lockdown
iii. SI99 of 2020 does not stipulate that businesses should carry the cost of covid-19 testing, hence according to law there is no mandate for businesses to carry the costs
iv. The designated testing laboratories have no capacity to test all the companies within a week, hence the two week period in which the country should be on level 2 will be unproductive
v. Businesses will not be able to resume operations anytime soon given the confusion emanating from the unexpected unilateral decision on testing
vi. The Chamber recommends that;
There is need for temperature checking on employees by businesses which is more economical than covid-19 compulsory testing. Upon detecting high temperatures, businesses would then contact the Ministry of Health and Child Care for further diagnosis. Compulsory testing is a huge cost to businesses which are trying to recover from the impact of the pandemic
There is need to put more emphasis on the need for businesses to disinfect work environments ahead of testing. It is not economic to spend resources on testing when the environment is affected
Part of the $18 billion Covid-19 Economic recovery and Stimulus Package should be channelled towards acquisition of the test kits. The cost of test kits should be pegged in local currency given that test kits are costing as much as US$25 which is very high in an environment where business operations are constrained by the impact of covid-19
National Social Security Authority (NSSA) should contribute funding towards the testing of employees given that workers that have been allowed to go back to work, on level-2 lockdown, are formal sector employees who are contributors to NSSA
The COVID-19 pandemic has hit not only Zimbabwe but the rest of the World. The Zimbabwe National Chamber of Commerce recognises the role that business plays to achieve our shared goal during this crisis, to maintain jobs and business continuity; to support health, social well-being and to ensure stability of the Zimbabwe populace. As a result, the Chamber has been engaging membership and stakeholders in tracking and assessing the impact of Covid-19 on Business over a three weeks period.
Every year government call upon ZNCC and other Business Member Organisations (BMOs) to make submissions on issues affecting the business operating environment. The Parliament Portfolio Committee on Budget, Finance & Economic Development is chaired by Honourable Felix Mhona who is the Member of Parliament for Chikomba Central constituency. The committee is made up of members of parliament from both the ruling and opposition party.
On Friday 28 February 2020, Zimbabwe and Botswana signed six more Memoranda of Understandings during the Zimbabwe-Botswana Bi-National Commission meeting that was held in Botswana.
The meeting was convened to assess progress made in taking the partnership which is premised at increasing the speed at which the two countries attain Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and Agenda 2063.
The signed memoranda of understanding were in six areas namely, Media, Information and Publicity, Health matters, Sustainable and Affordable Housing, Employment and Labour, Technical and Vocational Training and Mutual Legal Assistance and Criminal Matters. Last year in Harare, the two countries also signed six Memoranda of Understanding (MoUs) spanning across political, social and economic sectors.
In an effort to establish private sector relations & to equip business with development opportunities, to help create sustainable businesses which grow and lead to job creation, in turn contributing to sustainable economic growth, ZNCC will be leading a Business delegation to Zambia from 18th to 22nd May 2020. The trip to Zambia is being organised in-order to promote trade, explore investment opportunities and open up new markets so that industry is competitive given that the AfCFTA is coming into force as of 1st July 2020. A Business forum and Business to Business meetings will be held in Zambia.
During the 2020 61st Edition of the Zimbabwe International Trade Fair (ZITF) to be held from 21 April to 25 April 2020, ZNCC will host the ZNCC – Industry and Commerce Policy Discussion Luncheon on Thursday 23 April 2020 in Bulawayo. The luncheon will be running under the ZNCC 2020 theme “New frontiers; Prospects for Industry productivity, Growth and Competitiveness.”
The main objectives of the business luncheon are to provide a platform that will sensitize the business community on the implications of AfCFTA, rules to abide by and opportunities presented and to present an opportunity for private sector to discuss & contribute towards the National Implementation Strategy for AfCFTA.
The luncheon will be graced by the Minister of Industry and Commerce Hon Sekai Nzenza (guest of honour), Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe Governor Dr J Mangudya and Presidents and CEO’s of the Chambers of Commerce in Africa.