SMALL companies have literally invaded Harare’s industrial sites where they have occupied premises left by big entities that have been pushed out of business by the prevailing harsh economic environment.
BY VICTORIA MTOMBA
A survey by Standardbusiness in the Graniteside industrial area showed that the new companies are into manufacturing while others are selling products sourced elsewhere.
Graniteside used to boast of some of the biggest factories in Harare after Workington and Willowvale industrial areas.
Some big companies have, however, held their own and continue to operate from the area. These include Bakers’ Inn, Coca Cola, PG, United Builders Merchants, Waverley and Capri among others.
A tour of Graniteside showed that there were several former factories that have been converted into wholesale shops selling various household products that include plastic dishes, dinner plates, cups, chairs and kitchen utensils.
There are others that are into mass production of plastic wares and business is brisk 24 hours a day.
A worker at a shop selling products whose source we could not establish said he was not able to give the news crew more information because he was too busy.
“We would have loved to help you but now we are busy with work. I am from Somalia, here working in this shop. The owner of the shop is Ethiopian, we are just here to work,” he said.
He said he was not sure of the source of the products they sold.
Industry and Commerce minister Mike Bimha said there was need to investigate the issue of foreign nationals setting up businesses in Zimbabwe.
“One would want to investigate further maybe there are some certain arrangements that are in place. One would need to get to the bottom of the issue,” he said.
A Chinese shop that recycles and produces plastic products in Graniteside is enjoying brisk business as customers buy plastic ware in bulk for resale or exchange for agricultural produce in farms and the rural areas.
Other Chinese shops in the area sell plates, cups and an assortment of kitchen utensils.
This has made them venture into the retail sector reserved for locals under the Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment Act.
National Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment board chief executive Wilson Gwatiringa said the regulation or law was created for the reserved sectors.
“Honestly, we don’t need a foreign investor in that sector that is what local young men and women can do. Obviously foreigners are not supposed to be in that sector. We try to move around monitoring those issues,” Gwatiringa said.
He said his officers would move around the area (Graniteside) to flush out the culprits.
Faith Chimombe from Kadoma said she buys the plastic ware for resale in Gokwe or exchange for cow peas, groundnuts and maize.
“It is cheaper for us to buy here compared to the other shops (in the CBD) that are expensive. The demand for the products is there and its good business for us,” she said.
Maggie Chawasarira from Mbare said she got the products from Graniteside and sold them in high-density suburbs and at farms where she could exchange for other products.
She said the profit was not much but the money kept her going.
A visit to Graniteside West showed that locals were engaging in various trades.
Graniteside West Car Breakers director Stephen Kagoti said they occupied the premises that used to be owned by Nzuma Bars.
The company sells car parts and accessories. Kagoti said they had been in the car-breaking business for three years, specialising in buying accident-damaged vehicles and non-runners.
“We break down the cars and resell the parts. Business has been low and this has been a tough year compared to last year. We have been struggling with rentals and salaries for the four permanent staff members that we employ,” he said.
Kagoti said sales were low and the company was operating at 35% capacity. He said the unavailability of cash had become a challenge although there was demand.
Charliton Pottery staffer Irves Zulu said they operated from a complex that had subdivisions. The owner partitioned the factory so that he could accommodate more people to get more rentals, he said.
The complex accommodates small companies that are into fabrications, car repairs and soap-making, among others.
Zulu said their company had been operating here for the past four years.
Odzi managing director Godfrey Mateko said the economic environment had been difficult and his company was operating at 30% capacity.
He said the company used to produce for the export market in Malawi, Zambia and other regional countries but the change from the Zimbabwean dollar to the multi-currency regime had resulted in the firm losing its markets.
“Last year was better for us as there was disposable income but this year we have liquidity challenges,” he said.
“We had a slight decline when Statutory Instrument (SI) 64 of 2016 was introduced but we are now working on some products that are on the list so that we can get more sales.
“We are expecting our business to pick up because our peak season is summer.”
Bimha said the import restriction was meant to support local companies adding that there was need to avail funding to support local manufacturers.
“We are trying to support them through retooling. The companies need funding and we are assessing the companies’ needs for retooling,” he said.
The minister said many companies had shown a lot of resilience in the face of funding challenges.