'Prohibitive' import measures hit mobile firm

HARARE - A home-grown mobile phone company fears it could be forced to retrench and scale down its operations due to the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe’s “prohibitive” import priority list.

In May, the RBZ came up with a four-tier import priority list for the efficient use of foreign exchange resources, with a bias towards supporting the productive sectors of the economy and reducing the import bill.

This has indirectly created a range of problems for companies in the lower rungs of the list whose foreign payments are taking months to process.

Astro Mobile, along with a host of retailers, currently sit on third tier of the RBZ list.

“That’s a real problem to be honest. It has really affected us. Right now we don’t have stock for the last two weeks. It takes four months for payment to go through. That’s how bad it is,” Astro Mobile founder Munyaradzi Gwatidzo said.

Those wishing to import now have to go through a rigorous process, which involves getting approval from the central bank, a process which can take up to five months. The process involves extreme vetting to ascertain the reason and nature of the purchase. Gwatidzo said the Zimbabwean market had become unbearable.

“It’s only because we have regional operations that we are managing to survive,” he said.

“It’s something that might even see us scaling down our operations in Zimbabwe to focus on other countries. That’s how bad it is.”

The e-commerce company employs hundreds of people and operates branches in Zimbabwe, Zambia, Malawi, Mauritius and South Africa. Indigenous retailers have also been put in a spot of bother as the local market is awash with counterfeit products, with government allegedly not putting any measures to regulate the market.

“A huge percentage of phones on the market in Zimbabwe are fake. We even have fake Astro devices,” Gwatidzo said.

“And government needs to do something. There is no protectionism. Anyone one can just come in with a brand and it does not need to certified and they start selling. We have become a dump site.”

Gwatidzo added that it did not help that government officials were not buying Zimbabwean products, instead choosing to buy foreign.

“Government has to lead by example, if the government officials are using foreign brands, then we are not going anywhere,” he bemoaned.

“We talk of indigenisation but we can only empower each other if we buy home-grown products. I think that’s the reason we have a slower adoption in Zimbabwe than in other countries,” he said.

The Astro Mobile founder spoke as his company, which is setting up a $1 million manufacturing plant, has sold four million units in the region this year, with only 40 percent of those devices being sold in Zimbabwe.

Comments (1)

have a quality time with you family while making an extra income trading at the comfort of you own home. Learn ho to trade. Google Superior Trading System.

lloydcadenna - 5 December 2016

Post a comment

Readers are kindly requested to refrain from using abusive, vulgar, racist, tribalistic, sexist, discriminatory and hurtful language when posting their comments on the Daily News website.
Those who transgress this civilised etiquette will be barred from contributing to our online discussions.
- Editor

Your email address will not be shared.