Every economy is made up of different, but very necessary, sectors that work together to move an economy. As we unpack the key themes in each of Zimbabwe’s sectors, we highlight that each sector has unique challenges and will, in turn, respond to the changing macroeconomic environment in different ways. We look at eight key sectors in brief below.
The 2022/23 agriculture season is set to benefit from the above-average rainfall throughout the period. However, we identify three challenges that the sector will contend with, namely (i) energy, (ii) finance costs and (iii) government interference.
Despite many dams at near-capacity all over the country, power challenges in the country are anticipated to worsen because of Kariba Dam’s historically low usable water levels and this could extend to the sector’s irrigation capacity, alternative energy sources notwithstanding. Further, strong interference in the pricing modalities of agricultural produce vis-a-vis rising input costs is likely to incentivise side-marketing. We also reiterate that the seasonality of the sector necessitates debt capital whose cost currently burdens players in the industry.
Statutory Instrument 5 of 2023 is likely to stymie Zimbabwe’s mining sector in 2023 before spurring growth in the longer term in a J-curve trajectory.
The directive unequivocally banned the export of all ores and under-processed minerals, except where special exemptions are obtained in limited circumstances, in a bid to stimulate the development of beneficiation plants locally. We opine that this could drive a resurgence in the smuggling of minerals such as lithium and nickel until the beneficiation plants have been developed and commissioned, much to the detriment of the sector.
The growing exchange rates disparity is also expected to add significant downward pressures on miners’ profit margins while gold deliveries by small scale miners are likely to decline in 2023 given lax payments by Fidelity and part-payment of gold in local currency since December 2022.
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These artisanal miners were instrumental to gold’s record year in 2022 after accounting for 68% of total deliveries and the expected lower volumes is likely to offset the strong gold price expectations. Other minerals’ prices are largely expected to fall as the global economy braces for a recession.
The sector has been one of the last to recover post-Covid-19 and we have seen domestic tourism driving the recovery. Average occupancy rates in the 2022 festive season increased to 55%, up from 44% in 2021.
We also note the inherent potential in Zimbabwe being included in Bloomberg’s top 24 tourist destinations, but we also add that election-related political violence will deter international tourist arrivals as it has in past election years.
The consumer goods sector is likely to remain resilient owing to its defensive nature. However, we opine that top beneficiaries in this sector will be informal retailers who offer better terms of payment to suppliers as well as more competitive prices to consumers paying in USD. We also note quasi-formal institutions such as wholesalers continuing to expand their footprint in the country with a positive effect on the sector overall.
The sector is expected to struggle because of controlled tariff reviews that are sub-inflationary. In addition, the sector was one of the last sectors to receive the greenlight to price their products and services in multiple currencies and this underlines the relatively low USD revenues contribution of about 20% as a percentage of total revenues.
The challenges in the sector are further compounded by the power outages which have affected service delivery because of extended downtime in the players’ base infrastructure as well as expensive energy alternatives.
We observe that the sector is increasingly preferring to conduct business with informal and quasi-informal businesses that are near-cash.
This has been key to the sector’s waning currency risks since 2021. Power outages remain a concern in the industry, but we remark that more and more players are adopting green energy alternatives that will stem the decline in capacity utilisation.
The banking sector‘s deposits have increasingly shifted to the greenback and this has played a key role in the dollarisation of the sector’s loan book. Over 60% of issued loans are now denominated in the US dollar. ZWL loans remain in the picture but at high interest rates of 200% which have prompted many businesses to settle their ZWL obligations in an effort to avoid the punitive interest burden. We anticipate that dynamics in the sector will likely drive the percentage of non-performing loans upwards in 2023.
Constrained disposable incomes, unresolved compensation issues, and a general low confidence in the formal financial services sector have kept insurance penetration levels in the country at low levels of less than 4%. In addition, a survey done by Mbimba & Mupfumira (2022) reveals that over 30% of remittances into the country are directed to health, medical, and funeral costs and this has effectively deprived the insurance sector of about US$500 million in premiums each year.