Import Controls in Zimbabwe: Statutory Instrument 64 of 2016 and more
Industrial policy initiatives are very much on the agenda at both national and regional levels in Africa. The debate, however, about what an industrial policy is and what it should be is often ideologically and politically charged. It touches fundamentally on the role of government in the process of structural transformation and economic development. In Africa, a continent with a growing number of weak states (in the sense of having the capacity to make and effectively implement policy), this debate is important.
Against the background of the discourse on industrial policy, and also its relationship with trade policy, it is an appropriate time to review Zimbabwe’s controversial Statutory Instrument 64 of 2016 (known as SI 64, a domestic legislation which requires traders to obtain an import permit from government before importing basic commodities). SI 64 ran into implementation challenges in terms of threat of retaliation from trading partners, trade-off between balancing existing employment within the retail and distribution outlets that import, and protection of the local manufacturing industries.
A year after the promulgation of SI 64, the Minister of industry and Commerce Mike Bimha has publicly announced that the government of Zimbabwe is now scrapping the legislation, and will replace it with Local Content Policy. The cabinet minister is quoted saying SI 64 has “achieved its objectives of boosting industrial capacity utilisation, stimulating retooling and investment into new technologies in industries”. A few days after making this statement, the cabinet minister reversed his earlier remarks and said SI 64 will not be scrapped. Perhaps this is the appropriate time to look back and reflect on trade policy governance in Zimbabwe, and unpack what’s really happening to the manufacturing sector.
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