INTERMITTENT power cuts rocked the opening day of the 55th edition of the Zimbabwe International Trade Fair (ZITF) in Bulawayo yesterday leaving some exhibitors livid and questioning whether the country was serious about attracting foreign direct investment.
An official at the South African pavilion said the power cuts were a drawback for potential investment and would make any would-be investors hesitate.
“This is day one and it’s before midday, but we have already had three power cuts.
“This surely does not do any good for Zimbabwe. Investors are discouraged from setting up base in a country that does not guarantee sufficient power supply,” the exhibitor who declined to be identified, said.
ZITF chairperson Bekithemba Nkomo told a press briefing yesterday that they were not 100% sure of the cause of the power cuts, but were generally happy with the first day of the country’s premier trade exhibition.
“We are happy that the first day kicked off on a good note although some exhibitors are still putting up their stands.
“We hope fruitful business engagement will take place during the three days,” he said.
Asked why some firms had reduced space as compared to previous years, Nkomo said it was because of financial constraints.
“Some companies reduced the size of stands taken up, but in my view the quality seems to be a little bit higher,” he said.
Nkomo also said they hoped President Robert Mugabe would officially open the ZITF on Friday.
Congo Brazzaville President Denis Sassou Nguesso had been pencilled in to officially open the fair, but pulled out citing pressing engagements in attempts to solve the Central African Republic conflict.
Dispute the power cuts, exhibitors were seen entertaining guests at various stands.
Foreign countries that had set up shop include the United States, which made a return to ZITF after a 10-year absence, China, Namibia, South Africa, Ethiopia and Zambia.
China is the biggest exhibitor at this year’s fair occupying more than 1 000m2 up from 600m2 in 2013, but there are no known companies, just small to medium enterprises. South Africa also increased its space uptake from 700m2 in 2013 to 800m2 this year.
Some local parastatals and government departments’ stands were still empty by yesterday afternoon with no sign of activity.
Officials from the office of the President and Cabinet were still preparing their stand whose theme centres on the new economic blueprint ZimAsset.
The fair is running under the theme “New ideas to New Heights” and will feature product groups like machinery and expertise for infrastructure development, manufacturing processes and equipment for innovation, among others.
The major highlight of the exhibition would be the annual one-day premier business conference slated for today in partnership with the National Economic Consultative Forum.
The conference, which draws captains of industry, government officials and foreign exhibitors, runs under the theme “Technology and Innovation: A key pillar for ZimAsset’s successful implementation” and would be officially opened by Vice-President Joice Mujuru.
Other speakers at today’s business conference include Finance and Industry and Commerce ministers Patrick Chinamasa and Mike Bimha respectively, Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries president Charles Msipa and Econet Wireless boss Douglas Mboweni, among others.
Chinamasa is set to focus on innovative funding of ZimAsset, the case of joint ventures, private-public partnerships and special economic zones.
Meanwhile, some South African exhibitors yesterday complained that parts of their exhibits were still stuck at Beitbridge border post.