ZITF 2024 edition was a mixed bag

The fair, running under the theme “Innovation: The Catalyst for Industrialisation and Trade,” was officially opened by Kenyan President William Ruto.

The 64th edition of the Zimbabwe International Trade Fair (ZITF), which ended yesterday in Bulawayo, was a mixed bag.

The fair, running under the theme “Innovation: The Catalyst for Industrialisation and Trade,” was officially opened by Kenyan President William Ruto yesterday.

There were 624 exhibitors, against 565 recorded last year.

In terms of foreign participation, 26 countries took part.

These included the United States, China, Germany, Belarus, Russia and the United Kingdom.

A number of events such as the ZITF International Business Conference, Connect Africa Symposium, ZITF Innovators Forum and ZITF Diplomats Forum were held during the fair.

According to Industry and Commerce minister Nqobizitha Mangaliso Ndlovu, the annual trade showcase improved in terms of exhibiting quality products, attendance numbers and nation-building discussions, exhibitors say there was still need for improvement.

Parastatals dominated the exhibition compared to manufacturers, as they had in previous years, despite many sinking in debt.

There were few big international companies in attendance.

A number of foreign countries were represented by their embassies, and not by private companies.

A number of exhibitors, especially those with pavilions, complained of high charges.

“The organisers charged us US$10 000 on top of US$25 for parking. This was a bit steep,” one exhibitor, who asked not to be named for fear of victimisation, said.

“Next year, we are even planning to buy a few square metres in the hall and leave these pavilions.”

Brighton Kayifa of Qube Zimbabwe Medical Products said: “We feel they should have categorised exhibitors according to their specific areas of interests.

“For instance, those in the medical sector should have been put under one hall.

"However, what we realised is that our products have a huge opportunity here in Bulawayo. So, after the fair, we are planning to open a branch in Bulawayo."

Another exhibitor who did not want to be identified for fear of victimisation, said the organisers should improve on logistics and ventilation.

“The engagements we had with clients and other stakeholders were good,” he said.

“However, we feel the organisers should improve on logistics and make it seamless.

“They should also address the issue of poor ventilation in the halls. There are no aircons.”

The exhibitor added that the organisers should consider the issue of parking.

“We paid for parking to the ZITF Company but to our surprise, the parking was too far and unsafe,” he said.

“When we tried to park closer to the ZITF grounds, the space barons demanded US$5, which was absurd.”

Bulawayo deputy mayor Edwin Ndlovu said the matter should be handled by the police as it bordered on criminality.

“We are a host city, we don’t run ZITF,” Ndlovu said.

“The security, especially the police, should arrest those people.

“We can only get in if they were contravening city bylaws like wrong parking. Space barons are an issue of enforcement.

“This is an international event and the security is provided by the central government not by  the local authority."

Efforts to get a comment from the police were fruitless.

A Bata official who declined to be identified said the traffic was low throughout the fair.

“The show improved in terms of exhibitor numbers but not in terms of traffic,” the official said.

“We were expecting high traffic especially during the public days, but that was not the case.

“We don’t know whether it was due to the high entrance fee or what.”

European Union ambassador to Zimbabwe Jobst von Kirchmann said: "I think last year I came for the first time to ZITF and I did not really know what to expect exactly.

“It is quite a mix of companies, of countries, of ministries, so it's a platform.

"That's how I see it. And when I came back, I told my colleagues from the different EU member states, you know that the European Union has 27 member states, six of them are present here.

“That is why you also see Team Europe, because it's the European Union together with the member states.

“We have France, Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden, Italy and Romania."

The ambassador said some of the countries brought private companies.

"My dream for next year is that we combine our presence here with economic missions,” he said.

“We bring from the EU member states companies who have never made a leg into Zimbabwe to show them what is available here because I believe that the ZITF is also a very good place for what is called matchmaking.

“So, a company meets another company, a company can meet actors from the government and from the private sector."

Japan International Cooperation Agency resident representative Shigeki Furuta said the show was a success.

“It was my first experience attending the ZITF,” Furuta said.

“It offered us a good opportunity to get to know about Zimbabwe and the economic situation.

“We will try to invite more companies to come and exhibit next year.”

Economist Stevenson Dhlamini said the fair surpassed expectations.

“I think this year’s trade fair surpassed their expectations as the subscriptions have been very good and new entrants from the global trading community came to support,” Dhlamini said.

“The improvements that can be implemented perhaps would be a better translation of the exhibitions into sustainable trade relations that can create employment.”

Furuta was optimistic that the proposed Zimbabwe International Conference and Exhibition Eco-Park (ZICEEP), set to be established at a cost of US$300 million, will transform the ZITF.

According to ZITF Company chairman, Busisa Moyo, the ZICEEP will transform the precinct into a dynamic mixed-use development on the prime 17-acres of real estate located close to Bulawayo central business district.

The masterplan, whose details were released during the course of the fair, is a long-term plan that will develop the fair-grounds by introducing modern world-class amenities to the City of Bulawayo.

The new and envisaged precinct will feature a new international convention centre to accommodate up to 5 000 delegates; new 500 room hotel linked to the convention centre; five-star Boutique Hotel with facilities to host travelling heads of states and very important persons.

It will also consist of a modern retail shopping centre to provide daily convenience as well as offering a diverse range of retail, dining, and entertainment options for visitors and residents alike.

The ZICEEP will have office parks, providing a conducive environment for businesses to thrive and grow; new eco-friendly parks and pedestrianised walkways in line with international standards.

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