In mid-2015, the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe, announced that the Export Credit Guarantee Corporation of Zimbabwe (ECGC) had been fully capitalised to enable it to effectively play its role of promoting and facilitating domestic and international trade through the provision of credit insurance products. In this instalment, NewsDay’s financial columnist Omen Nyevero Muza (ONM) talks to the acting managing director of ECGC Sekai Chirume (SC) about the company’s products, challenges, opportunities, competitive situation as well as its international affiliations.
BY Omen Muza
ONM: In a nutshell, what role does the ECGC play in the national economy?
SC: The ECGC is an export credit agency (ECA) whose mandate is to help in the promotion and facilitation of Zimbabwe’s domestic and international trade through the provision of export and domestic credit insurance products.
ONM: Who owns the ECGC?
SC: ECGC is wholly-owned by the RBZ
ONM: In his mid-term monetary policy statement of July 2015, RBZ Governor Dr John Mangudya announced that the ECGC had now been fully capitalised to meet the regulated minimum requirements. What is the minimum capital requirement for ECGC?
SC: Yes, ECGC has now been fully capitalised and the minimum regulated capital requirement for ECGC as a short term insurance company is $1 500 000 (One million five hundred thousand dollars).
ONM: The governor also announced that a board of directors had been fully constituted. Are you at liberty to disclose who the board members are?
SC: The Board is chaired by Patrick Masvikeni. Other board members are Simon Nyarota who is the deputy chairman, Rachel Mushosho, Beatrice Mtetwa, Sithembile Priscilla Pilime, Daniel Chigaru and Farai Masendu.
ONM: Some Zimbabwean exporters face the hazard of not being paid in time or at all by consignees for various reasons. As ECGC, what solution do you have for such exporters?
SC: The solution for this challenge is for the exporters to take up our export credit insurance policy. Apart from the policy indemnifying the exporter in the event of a loss, ECGC vets the creditworthiness of potential foreign buyers so that the exporter deals with genuine, financially stable buyers only. ECGC also helps the exporter to recover any outstanding debts and this service is available even to exporters not insured with us.
ONM: Can you make the distinction between export credit insurance and domestic credit insurance, if any.
SC: Yes, export credit insurance is cover offered to exporters to protect them against the risk of non-payment by foreign buyers on the export markets, whereas domestic credit insurance offers protection to companies selling their products or services on credit against non-payment on the local market.
ONM: Apart from the issue of capitalisation, what other challenges does ECGC currently face?
SC: Capitalisation is no longer an issue for ECGC as we have been recapitalised beyond the minimum capital requirement of $1 500 000 which is set out by the regulator, the Insurance and Pensions Commission. The major challenge is the low performance of the export sector.
ONM: So what are about opportunities? What opportunities are available for the company now that capital is no longer an issue?
SC: The opportunities for the company are many but what quickly comes to mind is the need to partner with exporters as they seek to compete in the international markets and break into new markets and take up new buyers using our products for risk mitigation. The Zim Asset economic blueprint also presents an added opportunity for ECGC as Zimbabwean exporters are being encouraged to beneficiate their products for exports as opposed to exporting primary products.
ONM: Zimbabwe is poised to join the African Trade Insurance (ATI) network following the ratification of the ATI treaty by Parliament and mobilisation of the requisite subscription payment. How is that likely to impact on the operations of the ECGC?
SC: As ECGC we believe that joining the ATI will bring positive results to Zimbabwe in terms of political risk coverage and ECGC’s services will be complimentary to those of ATI.
ONM: Which international organisations is the ECGC affiliated to and why are such affiliations/memberships important?
SC: ECGC was a member of the Prague Club, a grouping of export credit agencies which is now being merged with another larger grouping, the Berne Union of which we are going to be a member. The main purpose of the organization is to give a platform for members to engage with each other and share notes in terms of their experiences in certain markets so as to improve their underwriting of such markets as well as to share experiences in claims handling.
ONM: Which companies or institutions complement your activities in Zimbabwe?
SC: ECGC works with a number of partners who include local reinsurance companies, credit information providers inside and outside Zimbabwe, Zimtrade, other export credit agencies (ECAs) world-wide, CZI, ZNCC and last but not least the Ministry of Industry and Commerce who provide reinsurance in respect of political risk coverage.
ONM: Would you talk about having competitors in Zimbabwe?
SC: It is always healthy to have competition and yes we do have a competitor although we see our organisations complimenting each other’s efforts.
ONM: In what way does the ECGC work with banks in Zimbabwe?
SC: ECGC works closely with banks as we have a common client base that is exporters. Our insurance policy can be used as collateral security for any post- or pre-shipment finance availed to exporters by financial institutions.
ONM: Anything else you would like your stakeholders to know about the ECGC?
SC: Yes, ECGC is actively working with financial institutions and SME organisations to develop products to support the SMEs as we believe they have an important role to play in the economy of Zimbabwe.
lMuza edits the MFSB. You can view his LinkedIn profile at zw.linkedin.com/pub/omen-n-muza/30/641/3b8 or initiate contact on firstname.lastname@example.org