ZITF gains should spur us

Zimbabwe International Trade Fair (ZITF)

THE curtain came down on the 55th edition of the Zimbabwe International Trade Fair (ZITF) yesterday amid a flurry of promises by both the government and investors.

ZITF is one of the biggest events on Bulawayo’s calendar every year and this year’s edition was not different.

However, the fair was not without its challenges as the number of exhibitors was not as high as previously expected.

Congolese president Sassou Nguesso who was originally scheduled to officially open the fair on Friday pulled out at the last minute.

President Robert Mugabe had to take over and his speech portrayed a government that is finally ready to listen to advise and do the right things that would attract foreign direct investments (FDI).

Zimbabwe, it has always been said, is good at coming up with strategies and position papers, but is poor when it comes to implementation.

Gains of initiatives such as the ZITF often go to waste because the government has not put in place policies that support FDI.

Zimbabwe has become notorious for its failure to protect property rights stretching from the time of the land reform programme to the indigenisation push that has muddied efforts to bring about investment.

Mugabe acknowledged the shortcomings with an admission that there has been confusion in the way the indigenisation programme is run.

This is so because of the rhetoric in the run-up to elections where the long-time ruler and his Zanu PF party came across as enemies of foreign investors. On Friday Mugabe was clear that Zimbabwe cannot survive without FDI.

He categorically assured investors that there “is no expropriation or nationalisation of shares held by non-indigenous persons in companies as some of our detractors would want the world to believe”.

The only shortcoming is that Mugabe failed to acknowledge that he and his party are to blame for the confusion. Lack of clarity and policy inconsistencies have for a long time been the archiles’ heel for Zimbabwe’s attempts to lure investment. It is our hope that the potential investors that were at ZITF got the reassuring message.

The challenge is now to ensure gains made at the showcase count as Zimbabwe continues to seek answers to the economic crisis that has been an albatross since around 1997.