ZIMBABWE International Trade Fair (ZITF) roars into life in Bulawayo tomorrow with only a handful of local companies participating at the fair because of the poor economic environment coupled with a severe liquidity crisis.
BY MTHANDAZO NYONI
The 56th annual edition of the ZITF is expected to breathe life into the struggling Bulawayo companies as well as the comatose economy. However, what is worrying is the fact that Bulawayo-based companies are again not very visible at the fair.
ZITF general manager Nomathemba Ndlovu revealed that Harare companies would again dominate this year’s ZITF as they accounted for 55% of exhibitors at the premier event.
Last year, Harare companies constituted 57% while Bulawayo had 35%. This year again, only 37% are from Bulawayo while 8% will be coming from other cities and towns.
Bulawayo used to be the country’s industrial hub, but the city has lost its lustre over the years due to a number of factors that include uncertainties over future water supplies.
The closure of the Zimbabwe Iron and Steel Company (now NewZimSteel) in Redcliff and the problems dogging the National Railways of Zimbabwe have largely been blamed for the demise of the city’s industries.
There are global issues such as the liquidity crunch, obsolete machinery, influx of cheap imports and lack of investor-friendly policies to breathe life into the national economy.
The local business community last week urged companies in the city to take advantage of the presence of foreign exhibitors at the fair to search for new markets for their products.
Association for Business in Zimbabwe chief executive officer Lucky Mlilo said ZITF would bring hope to local industries.
“Exhibiting at trade fair is a great opportunity for companies, especially for marketing themselves. Local companies can clinch deals with foreign companies,” Mlilo said.
However, he said it was sad to note that there were few South African companies that would showcase at this year’s trade fair compared to last year.
“It’s sad that there are few South African companies that are going to exhibit at this year’s trade fair. It’s a lost opportunity for local firms,” he said.
Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries Matabeleland chapter president Busisa Moyo echoed similar sentiments and urged ZITF Company to focus on technological automation because local companies were using obsolete machinery.
“There is much that needs to be done. I think the focus should be on the technological automation as well as investment. We are looking forward for financial services to take part,” Moyo said.
Crispen Mugova, chairperson of the Matabeleland chapter of the Zimbabwe National Chamber of Commerce encouraged Bulawayo companies to participate at the trade fair to market their products. Running along the fair is the annual international business conference under the theme “Stimulating Exports: Seizing Opportunities to Accelerate Growth Under ZimAsset.”
The programme to be held on April 29, seeks to interrogate how stimulating exports will create opportunities to accelerate economic growth and close to 400 business delegates to participate.
ZITF invited an international incentive travel expert from the United States, Joost de Meyer, to facilitate a workshop on incentive travel.
The workshop, organised in conjunction with the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority, is open to all ZITF 2015 participants and not just A’sambeni exhibitors.
The aim, according to Ndlovu, is to educate and create awareness among Zimbabwean corporate executives on incentive travel and how it could be used to increase employee productivity.
ZITF will hold sector-specific exhibitions — A’sambeni Africa Business Tourism Expo, Scholastica, Pakprint — to run alongside the main fair.
The 56th annual edition will be held from tomorrow to May 2 under the theme “Simulating Trade: Seizing opportunities to accelerate growth”.
Zambian President Edgar Lunga is expected to officially open the trade fair, a major highlight on Bulawayo’s calendar.
Ndlovu revealed that the exhibitors had taken up 45 018m² of space, which represents 91% of the available space.
Last year, 19 countries, including the US, which had not taken part at ZITF for 10 years, and close to 400 firms, participated.
China was the biggest exhibitor in 2014 occupying more than 1 000m² of exhibition space up from 600m² in 2013, but there were no major companies from the Asian economic giant.
South Africa increased uptake of exhibition space from 700m² in 2013 to 800m² last year.
Seventeen countries — Botswana, China, India, Indonesia, Iran, Japan, Germany, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Cyprus, Namibia, Pakistan, Poland, South Africa, the United States and Zambia — are participating.