The liquidity chaos reigning supreme in indigenous banks prejudicing the depositor should serve as a warning sign that there should be a balance between indigenisation and consumer protection.
Indigenisation, while a noble idea, should ensure a balance between empowerment and consumer interests so that both the local investors and the majority benefit.
It is not enough for authorities to forget the impact of indigenisation on consumers who are the recipients of the final products.
Indigenisation should be tied together with capitalisation of local industries by local investors. It is no secret that most industries in this country use obsolete equipment that makes the production of goods very expensive. Consequently, local goods become so expensive that the poor Zimbabwean consumer cannot afford them, hence the preference for imports. The point here is that strict minimum capital standards should be enforced relative to each industry to ensure that modern capital goods and technology are used for the production of consumer goods. This will ensure local industries produce goods of high quality whose prices and quality do not prejudice the consumer.
Under the “protection” of the empowerment laws that largely rule out foreign competition, many businesspeople will exploit consumers by supplying poor quality goods at higher prices. And if such laws create monopolistic tendencies they give businesses the leeway for fraudulent and unethical practices that prejudice the consumer. If local industry is protected, but not checked for quality, consumers will definitely bear the brunt of defective, inferior and substandard goods and poor service.
After all, we all dream of indigenisation resulting in locally produced goods dominating regional markets and if possible, international markets.
We all know what happened in agriculture when indigenisation minus capitalisation equalled disaster, turning the once breadbasket that was Zimbabwe into a basket case. We see how indigenous banks are either struggling or collapsing due to undercapitalisation, prejudicing thousands of innocent depositors who fail to get their money.
We have cases of people “trying out” various business enterprises without proper capitalisation and the result has been poor goods and services and in such cases the consumer is always at the receiving end.
Regulating these industries will restrict the use of unfair, deceptive, and abusive practices against consumers. Indigenisation should not be based on political expediency only, but on the genuine desire to see the development of indigenous industry for the development of the economy and the satisfaction of the ordinary man and woman in the street.