ZITF, the Zim we all want!

The once lively streets now bear a quieter demeanour as crowds disperse and the city settles after a successful shutdown of the trade fair by popular musician Winky D, affectionately referred to as Gafa.

AFTER days of bustling activity and vibrant displays, the fervour of the 64th edition of the Zimbabwe International Trade Fair has come to a close.

The once lively streets now bear a quieter demeanour as crowds disperse and the city settles after a successful shutdown of the trade fair by popular musician Winky D, affectionately referred to as Gafa.

With the curtains drawn on the festivities, attention shifts from the pomp and fair to the outcomes and impacts of this renowned event on Zimbabwe's economic landscape.

The ZITF stands as a beacon of the Zimbabwean dream we collectively aspire to achieve. As we delve into the heart of this piece, let us channel our energies towards unravelling the business intricacies that underpin this epitome of our aspirations.

Politicians galore

The hustle and bustle of the ZITF can indeed be overwhelming, with ministers and dignitaries making their way through the crowds to attend panel discussions or visit various exhibitor stands.

Amidst this flurry of activity, the risk of being inadvertently caught in a ministerial motorcade rush is ever-present.

It is a reminder of the dynamic energy and importance of every moment at such an event, where even a brief lapse in attention could lead to unexpected encounters with the corridors of power. It is a quite sight.

The dignitaries engage in meaningful interactions with the public. They extend hands in genuine gestures of camaraderie, engaging in conversations akin to everyday exchanges, breaking down barriers and fostering a sense of approachability.

They field pertinent questions directly from the public, enriching the discourse.

For an ordinary Zimbabwean, this is extraordinary, for there is a common phrase amongst us common folk that the only time you see a politician is just before an election when they are soliciting for your vote and again when the next election is due. This is a scathing reality for the ordinary folk.

In a unique twist of fate, the ZITF provided an unexpected opportunity for urban dwellers, often constituencies of opposition strongholds, to reconnect with their local Members of Parliament, most of whom have relocated to low density suburbs.

Those that have continued to stay in their high density constituencies live behind high perimeter walls and shut gates.

They are never available to their constituents. If they are not behind the gated walls, the legislators are in Harare or at some portfolio committee engagement, making valuable contributions.

If this level of accessibility, which we saw at the ZITF, was sustained beyond special occasions, it could lead to a transformative shift in service delivery, ensuring that policies and initiatives are rooted in the lived experiences of those they are designed to benefit.

Service delivery

In the lead-up to the ZITF, anticipation mounts among the residents of the vibrant city of Bulawayo. Weeks prior to the event, there is a palpable buzz in the air as the City of Bulawayo kicks into high gear, embarking on a comprehensive clean-up campaign.

From streets to sidewalks, every corner receives meticulous attention, with shovels poised and ready for action.

This concerted effort not only ensures that the city presents its best face to the world but also reflects a collective pride in maintaining its cleanliness and allure.

However this has not been the case for years, as the Bulawayo City Council grapples financial problems, fuelled by corruption and  central government’s tightening grip on their ability to make revenue.

The city, like other urban local authorities, has been battling with a water crisis. Loadshedding has become a norm for many residents across Zimbabwe, including those in Bulawayo.

But during the ZITF, we were spared the long hours of blackouts.

Water was running and there were refuse disposal areas at almost every corner.

Harare knows better the struggles of uncollected refuse. The streets in the capital city's central business district are filthy and marred with unsightly heaps of garbage. This challenge extends beyond the city centre to densely populated suburbs like Mbare and Epworth, where residents grapple with the consequences of inadequate waste management.

The accumulation of refuse not only tarnishes the city's image but also poses serious health and environmental risks to communities .

However, this was a stark contrast to pristine ZITF grounds and Bulawayo streets in general. Only if this was the everyday reality.

Many urban residents pay their dues to local authorities with the hope of receiving comparable standards of cleanliness and efficiency.

However, the reality falls short of these expectations, as uncollected refuse and other infrastructure challenges persist in their neighbourhoods.

Buy one, get everything for free

The allure of freebies at the ZITF is a cherished memory for many, especially those who grew up in the high-density suburbs of Bulawayo. As a child, the last day of ZITF held special excitement, offering a treasure trove of delights from face painting to balloons, and the ultimate treat: ice cream.

Walking through exhibition stands became an adventure, with the possibility of scoring freebies ranging from sweets to books, and for the luckiest, even phones!

Businesses seize the opportunity to showcase new products and services, enticing visitors with irresistible free deals. For young attendees, ZITF becomes not just a trade fair, but a carnival of discovery and delight, leaving indelible memories of joy and abundance.

For college aspirants, the trade fair offers university opportunities, ranging from instant admissions to meeting lectures and knowing more about programmes being offered by the institutions.

ZITF is also the place where you can obtain national documentations, like the national identity card and provisional driving lessons amongst others.

For business, the ZITF ignites a flurry of activity across various sectors. From hotels and lodges to restaurants and grocery stores, the ripple effect of ZITF is unmistakable.

Accommodation facilities experience unprecedented demand, with bookings stretching weeks in advance as visitors from far and wide converge on the city.

Restaurants bustle with patrons seeking culinary delights, while grocery stores and clothing boutiques witness a steady stream of customers in search of diverse goods.

The trade fair provides a networking platform for entrepreneurs and businesses with international and regional players, further expanding their access to the export market and business reach.

Businesses actually boom. Employment opportunities are created and there is a wonderful showcase of the country’s technological and other science prowess.

While ZITF may offer a glimpse of hope with employment opportunities and a showcase of potential investment, the underlying issues of corruption and mismanagement have eroded trust and hindered sustainable progress in the country.

Despite efforts to present an attractive façade to regional and international partners, the inability to address systemic challenges has hampered Zimbabwe's ability to attract the foreign direct investment needed for long-term growth and stability.

In conclusion, ZITF can epitomise what most Zimbabweans want from their country and their leaders. Effective service delivery, vast economic opportunities that transform lives, accessibility of duty bearers and an  opportunity to just let loose and enjoy the atmosphere.

Kombora is a young writer, producer and development practitioner. She has worked for the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation as a presenter and partnered with Centre for Innovation Technology (CITE), one of the biggest media companies in Zimbabwe as a producer, host and script writer. She is also Friedrich Naumann Foundation Womentorship  alumni. Email: [email protected]/ 0788953310

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