The subject of value addition in Zimbabwe has increasingly become topical. I wish I could talk about it more because it is central to reshaping the Zimbabwean economy. Zimbabwe has become an informal and predominantly retail economy. The other day someone remarked how more and more buildings in Zimbabwean CBDs are being turned into ‘malls’. Of which the majority of stuff sold in such places is imported. Most of what is imported should not be imported under normal circumstances. Most of what is being exported raw should not be exported raw.
Edible Fast Moving Food Stuffs
I cannot single out just one because there are so many possible options. Most of the foodstuffs we consume in Zimbabwe are imported. There are many of them for instance, pasta, cereals, and beverages, amongst others. Yet there is generally an abundance of raw materials for us to process into end products. For example, we produce crops such as squash, sweet potatoes, beets, cucumbers, carrots, pumpkins, and radishes. These are examples of crops from which noodles can be made. Pickles can be made from fruits, vegetables, eggs, meats, and dairy products.
Food pastes and purees can be made from fruits, herbs, spices, vegetables, legumes, or nuts, amongst others. You will be amazed by the amount of tomato waste you can find dumped at produce markets. Those are tomatoes which could have been processed into products such as tomato puree. Syrups are also another example e.g. corn syrups and honey syrup. Juices and blends are yet another example. I am just showing you that the value addition of foodstuffs in Zimbabwe is a huge industry, largely untapped. There are of course some Zimbabweans already operating in this space, but more is needed.
You all know how cooking oil tends to be scarce in Zimbabwe. The problem is we still largely import cooking oil e.g. from South Africa. Plus we still largely import raw materials needed to produce cooking oil. Did you know that the cooking oil produced in Zimbabwe is made from imported oil seeds? Can we seriously say Zimbabwe does not what it takes to produce its oil seed? Not!
Groundnuts, sunflowers, and soya beans are good examples of crops locally grown from which cooking oil can be produced. I believe oil pressing is an area of far-reaching business prospects in Zimbabwe. Oil pressing companies in Zimbabwe require roughly US$40 million monthly to operate optimally. You can claim a piece of that by getting into the oil-pressing business.
There is a huge livestock production industry in Zimbabwe. Though livestock production is done for several reasons, meat production is predominant. Some of the commonly produced meats are beef, chicken, pork, goat meat, rabbit meat, and more. It is commonplace for most producers to sell live animals or to slaughter and sell the carcasses (in part on in full). That is not necessarily wrong but it is far better for value addition. Get into making products such as sausages, dried meat to corned meat, canned meat, cured meat, ham, and smoked meat, just to mention a few. There is so much here as I am reminded of fish production. Fish waste can be processed into interesting products such as glue and stock feeds. Oils and protein powder can also be made from fish.
Milling And Preservation
I thought to include these here because they are generally single-process value addition ideas. This means you get to add value just by doing a simple process or a few processes. Many people produce grains in Zimbabwe. These can be maize and wheat to small grains such as sorghum, millet, rapoko, and the like. Most producers do not consider simple value addition in the name of milling. Selling raw maize, for example, gets you less than selling maize meals. This also reminds me of stock feed production – lots of money there given the growing livestock industry.
Then we have the preservation of agricultural produce as a means to add value. This can apply to fruits and vegetables where you can, for instance, dry them. I have done separate articles before on the preservation and processing of carrots, sweet potatoes, bananas, and avocados. Check them out to get the picture of what I am talking about. Simple preservation techniques of agricultural produce can constitute value addition.
I am saddened when I continue to see the exportation of raw minerals from Zimbabwe. Gold, platinum, chrome, lithium, and diamonds are some of the key minerals mined in Zimbabwe. Mineral processing can entail comminution (i.e. breaking into smaller portions), sizing, concentration, and dewatering. Beyond that, the products of such processes can be made into other products. For example, gold and diamonds can be ultimately used to make jewellery.
Chrome can be used to make non-ferrous irons and stainless steel, for example. These are just a few examples to shine the light on value addition business ideas in mineral processing. That is a domain that is still not yet well developed in Zimbabwe. I understand that it might be capital-intensive due to the need for specialized equipment. Regardless, we need to see that space blossoming.
I once gave an analogy that demonstrates the importance of value addition. I used a bar of iron as an example. A bar of iron can cost US$5. If that bar of iron is used to make horseshoes, its value becomes around US$12. If you use it to make needles, its value can become as much as US$3500. If the same iron bar is used to make balance springs for watches, its value can be as high as US$300 000. This is what value addition is all about; when you make something out of what you produce you can unlock and realize more value. The common scenario in Zimbabwe is to export the iron and import the balance springs or watches. That has to change.