ZITF counter attractions steal thunder from fair

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The 56th edition of the Zimbabwe International Trade Fair (ZITF) opened in Bulawayo this week amid two major counter attractions in Harare that have taken away the gloss from what should be the country’s premier trade event.

In what was supposed to be a big week for the city that once prided itself as the industrial hub of Zimbabwe, Harare would be hosting the Southern African Development Community (Sadc) summit on industrialisation.

There is also the internationally-acclaimed Harare International Festival of the Arts (Hifa) that opened in the capital on Tuesday.

ZITF is organised by a semi-autonomous organisation, the ZITF Company, but the government is usually responsible for the scheduling of the event.

This year, the trade showcase had to be postponed to accommodate the guest of honour, Zambian President Edgar Lungu, hence the clash with Hifa.

The same government that has been organising the Sadc summit in Harare was responsible for the scheduling of the fair that is now suffering from counter attractions in Harare.

One of the major highlights of the trade fair is the International Business Conference that organisers said attracted close to 400 foreign delegates, business leaders, policymakers and representatives from civil society.

However, some key people such as Industry and Commerce minister Mike Bimha could not attend the conference because of commitments at the Sadc summit.

Bimha’s deputy Chiratidzo Iris Mabuwa had to hold fort in his absence. This alone sends a very negative message about the seriousness of the government in using the ZITF as one of the major pillars for economic revival.

It would appear the trade showcase is now one of the rituals the country has to undertake every year without any serious effort being spared to make it effective and to serve the purpose it was set up for 56 years ago.

According to the organisers, this year’s edition of the ZITF attracted 17 countries, namely Botswana, China, India, Indonesia, Iran Japan, Germany, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Cyprus, Namibia, Pakistan, Poland, South Africa, the United States and Zambia.

There are 31 foreign exhibitors at this year’s fair compared to 27 last year and 404 direct exhibitors are participating compared to 396 of 2014.

Predictably, the ZITF Company has expressed satisfaction with the level of participation this year, but the reality is that the figures are far from ideal.

The jury is still out on the value of exhibitors, but it goes without saying that it would reflect the parlous state of the Zimbabwean economy.

Mabuwa rightly noted that Zimbabwe ranks poorly on international indexes on the ease of doing business and this is because the government does not take seriously efforts that are being made to stimulate the economy.

The rhetoric about ZimAsset would remain hollow as long as practical steps are not taken to revive the economy.

Such measures could include trade fairs that could be used as a primary tool to convince investors that Zimbabwe is open for business.

The only way to show commitment is by demonstrating seriousness when such fairs are held. A clash on the dates especially with the Sadc summit could have easily been avoided with proper planning.

Naturally, the clash in dates would mean that the event is starved of publicity, which is crucial to attract exhibitors and potential investors to future fairs.

The first days of the fair, which are set aside exclusively for business, would suffer the most from the poor planning.
Nonetheless, not all is lost for this year’s event as it has just started.

There is need to encourage local companies, especially those from Bulawayo, to use of ZITF to source for new markets and explore synergies with international firms.

It is disappointing to note that fewer and fewer companies are exhibiting at the fair.

ZITF should in future come up with innovative ways to encourage local participation, which is crucial to shape the identity of the trade showcase.

1 COMMENT

  1. Who exactly in government can plan or things just happen as the supreme leader has to be worshipped?

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