THE country’s biggest business exhibition, the Zimbabwe International Trade Fair (ZITF), which ended yesterday, was a huge success.
Held under the cloud of Covid-19, the four-day show held in Bulawayo, attracted 396 exhibitors from 11 countries — Botswana, South Africa, Democratic Republic of Congo, Belarus, Indonesia, Kenya, Malawi, Mauritius, Namibia, Nigeria and Tanzania. President Mnangagwa was the guest of honour at the exposition that was held under the theme “Showcasing the new normal for business and industry: Realities and Opportunities.”
Covid-19 caused last year’s event to be cancelled. Although infections were lower then compared to figures being recorded now, no one had an idea how the pandemic would develop and how best to deal with it. The country, like others across the world, was under a tight lockdown that limited business to essential services with social interaction reduced to the barest minimum. Gatherings were banned worldwide as authorities feared big meetings could provoke more infections. It was no surprise that the Government, after postponing ZITF for a few times, later took the decision to cancel it altogether.
This year’s edition was supposed to be held in the first-half of the year, but was moved twice before the Government and the ZITF Company settled for this week. They took the decision having considered the decline in infections and the success of the ongoing vaccination programme against the highly contagious disease.
That the ZITF was held, and held in a physical sense, was a big success on its own.
Businesspeople were able to meet, showcase their products and services, discuss business and agree on deals. We hope that the deals that were made would be followed up after the exposition and executed for the benefit of the businesses and the national economy.
Another high point worth noting was the excellent quality of exhibits that we saw at the show. We marvelled at how the local manufacturing industry is on the road to recovery and growth given the dominance of locally made exhibits at the expo.
The President was delighted at this.
“The private sector has made sure they perform extremely well so that we never again stop them from holding this exhibition,” he said Thursday after touring several stands at the Zimbabwe International Exhibition Centre (ZIEC).
“The quality of products and arrangements, you wonder whether we are in Zimbabwe under sanctions. It’s really amazing that we’re achieving what we have achieved under the conditions we are in. I’m proud of our people in the private sector. You deserve due commendation.”
We share the President’s delight at the resilience of the local private sector and the quality of products and services they displayed at the ZITF. Sanctions are an obvious encumbrance, as the President made clear, but Zimbabwe is always Zimbabwe – resilient and smart. Industry must grow that strength to do better, whatever challenge there is.
The business content at the fair was world-class and this is more proof of success of the show. Apart from the excellent exhibits that we admired, the ZITF Company came up with a package of more formal platforms at which exhibitors and business visitors discussed serious business. There was the ZITF Diplomats Forum, the Zimbabwe International Business Conference, ZITF Innovators Forum, Scholastica Conference and the CZI/ZITF Indaba. A number of important speeches were made at the forums. Vice-President Constantino Chiwenga officiated at the business conference while many ministers, senior Government officials and representatives of the private sector made presentations which we feel, were helpful to their audiences.
Yet another pointer to success was the strictness with which the ZITF Company and the Government through the Ministry of Health and Child Welfare enforced Covid-19 prevention and response protocols. There was actually a heavy Covid-19 police presence to make sure that participants at the show wore face masks properly and always, social distancing was observed, and sanitisation and handwashing facilities were in good running order. A testing service was available too for those who wanted to know their Covid-19 status.
We know that Covid-19 doesn’t show its adverse effects immediately after infection, but with the tight measures that were in place at the ZIEC, we are confident that the show was not only a resounding success businesswise but also healthwise.
The Ministry of Industry and Commerce, the ZITF Company and the Bulawayo Agricultural Society deserve plaudits for putting together such a successful show. They really showcased the new normal for business and industry amid Covid-19, exposed the realities of that new normal and the outstanding trade and investment opportunities that abound in our country.