Oliver Kazunga, Senior Business Reporter
PRESIDENT Mnangagwa will officially open this year’s edition of the Zimbabwe International Trade Fair (ZITF) scheduled for next week in Bulawayo.
The country’s premier trade showcase will be held under strict Covid-19 guidelines beginning next Tuesday ending on Friday (21-24 September) with those under the age of 18 not allowed to attend the fair.
With less than a week ahead of this year’s ZITF, the organisers have expressed readiness to host local and foreign delegates for the unique multi-sectorial trade exhibition, which buttresses the country’s drive to energise exports and boost foreign currency earnings.
Revitalising the productive sector with a bias on value addition and widening trade relations are at the heart of the Government’s National Development Strategy 1 (NDS1:2021-2025), a key building block towards realising an upper middle-income economy by 2030.
Addressing a press conference in Bulawayo yesterday, ZITF Company board chair Mr Busisa Moyo said 10 countries namely Botswana, Democratic Republic of Congo, Indonesia, Kenya, Malawi, Mauritius, Namibia, Nigeria, South Africa and Tanzania have confirmed participation.
“The 23rd of September will mark the official opening of the show where the ZITF patron His Excellency the President of the Republic of Zimbabwe ED Mnangagwa is expected to officiate,” he said.
“Public days have been reduced to one day. Additionally, there are no children under 18 that will be allowed. We think that adults will self-manage better than children and so we want to avoid any mishaps with children under the age of 18.”
This year’s trade fair will be held under the theme: “Showcasing the New Normal for Business and Industry: Realities and Opportunities.”
Over the past few days, exhibitors from Harare and other cities have taken advantage of the lowering of the Covid-19 lockdown alert to Level 2, which allows intercity travel to prepare for their participation.
“The pandemic has not only disrupted life as we know it, but has also upended international economic development,” said Mr Moyo.
“We are at a very critical point in dealing with both the pandemic and its long-term effects, therefore, it is crucial to host the show at this point in time, in an attempt to bring normalcy and stability to business, industry and the national economy.
“Going forward, international trade and strategic business transactions will be essential to the economic recovery and development of Zimbabwe and its allies.”
Mr Moyo, who is also chief executive officer for United Refineries, said this year’s theme locates ZITF as a relevant platform for sharing trade, investment and market information by enabling buyers and sellers, investors and countries to meet, discuss and conclude business deals.
Zimbabwe anticipates that countries that are able to re-open their economies and engage the private sectors are likely to have a first mover advantage even after the Covid-19 pandemic is gone.
On Covid-19 preparedness, Mr Moyo said robust health and safety protocols have been established under the advice of public health authorities.
ZITF Company has also enlisted the help of the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority and key players in the business tourism (hotels and airlines) in communicating and enforcing health and safety protocols outside the exhibition centre.
As such, Mr Moyo said a Covid-19 police team has also been set up to encourage and enforce compliance with all health and safety protocols.
“All exhibitors, vendors, service providers and conference delegates will be required to produce a negative Covid-19 test result (PCR or Antigen) taken within 48 hours of the beginning of the show,” he said.
“One day visitors do not need to take a test as they will spend limited time at the show and will be under close monitoring by Covid-19 police.”
To date, a total of 357 direct exhibitors have booked and confirmed participation on 40 109 square metres of exhibition space.
Of these, about 11 percent are first time exhibitors, which Mr Moyo said would be displaying a wide range of products and services including automobile and automotive equipment, industrial hemp, financial services and fintech, medical equipment, real estate and property development, and mining equipment, among others.
“In terms of geographical mix, 62 percent of confirmed local exhibitors are from Harare, 25 percent are from Bulawayo, 10 percent from other towns and three percent foreign,” said Mr Moyo.
Responding to questions from the floor, ZITF Company chief executive Dr Nicholas Ndebele said Covid-19 has had a huge impact not only on the exhibition industry but all sectors of the economy.
“Certainly, it cannot or it has never been business as usual. In 2019, we had 486 of such exhibitors who were direct exhibitors and we had 17 countries but what we are pleased about is that this year we have 11 countries and 357 exhibitors,” he said.
“While it might represent a slight decline, it certainly doesn’t worry us that much because we understand the circumstances under which industry and commerce has been doing business in this Covid pandemic.”
Last year’s edition of the ZITF was set for April 21 to 25 under the theme: “Augmenting Trade and Investment towards a shared economic vision.”
By the time of cancelation of the event, the ZITF Company had sold 94 percent of its exhibition space with seven countries Belarus, Botswana, Japan, Malawi, Namibia, Mozambique, and Tanzania confirming participation. [email protected]