Industry and Commerce minister Mike Bimha made some very important points at the Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries (CZI) conference in Victoria Falls when he emphasised that local manufacturers should prioritise quality of their products.
There has been an outcry that local goods are either overpriced or lack quality and these have been the main driving factor for consumers to prefer foreign products.
The government promulgated Statutory Instrument 64 of 2016, which barred the importation of certain goods and some local manufacturers seemed to think this is a licence to produce half-baked and poor quality products.
While some Zimbabweans are willing to overlook the price in buying goods, there is no substitute for quality and local manufacturers will continue facing resistance for their goods.
On the other hand, the government has come up with a deliberate thrust to promote exports, but such a plan will come a cropper, as long as manufacturers are producing goods that are not up to scratch.
Local manufacturers have been screaming out for the protection of their industries and now the onus is upon them to ensure that they produce quality that will draw consumers.
Failure to do that will increase the appetite for foreign goods and lead to local industries running aground.
A criticism of protecting local companies from foreign competition is that they become complacent in terms of quality and pricing, which could be a put-off for consumers.
It is incumbent on local producers to show that they deserve that protection by producing goods that appeal to consumers instead of resting on their laurels and hoping for future government intervention the next time their businesses hit turbulent waters.
In that regard, the Standards Association of Zimbabwe (SAZ) becomes an important player in guaranteeing quality, meaning both local and foreign consumers will have faith in Zimbabwean products.
It is, thus, important for local manufacturers to engage the standards body to ensure that everything they export or sell to the local market meets international touchstones.
That way, the manufacturers will grow their customer base within and without Zimbabwe, which will culminate in the removal of import protections because local goods would be able to stand their own against foreign ones.
Hence, the message that Bimha should be sending to local industry is that it cannot expect government protection all the time and a time will come when it has to be weaned off.
When that time comes, local industry must be in a position to stand on its two feet and compete against foreign products.
Government protection cannot be permanent and local industry must show how they have improved on quality and efficiencies in the past 15 months or so since the introduction of Statutory Instrument 16.