We can expand our export base


RE: “Lawmakers task RDB to expand export base” (The New Times, May 19).

The goal shouldn't be restricted to expanding the export base, as laudable as that is, but, more importantly, increasing the ratio of products and services consumed in the country that are produced and processed locally. Our balance of payments—which should be a pressing concern to all of us—would benefit even more were our consumption comprised mostly of what we ourselves produce and less of what we import.

We should remember, the volume and value of our trade (both imports and exports) are very small compared to our overall economy (i.e. the largest proportion of our economy is comprised of non-tradable).

Therefore, the best way of growing our economy is to expand that huge portion of our economy that has minimal linkages to the outside markets and explore ways in which more of their activities (think subsistence farming) could be supported to become better at supplying the local market more efficiently and to eventually also help them become integrated into global value chains.

All this is of course easy to understand; the devil is in knowing exactly how to go about it in practice: what exactly needs to be done, in what sequence, where to find the means to do it, and over what time horizon in order not to miss the boat.

Mwene Kalinda