Oliver Kazunga, Senior Business Reporter
THE 60th edition of the Zimbabwe International Trade Fair (ZITF) opens in Bulawayo today with record breaking subscription at 532 direct local exhibitors and 16 countries participating.
The figure compares favourably with 491 direct local exhibitors recorded the same time last year, showing growing positive business sentiment and a strong desire to increase trade.
Uganda President Yoweri Museveni will officially open the five-day premier trade showcase on Friday, seen as the biggest ever after exhibition space, for the first time in years, was sold out.
The event runs under the theme, “Propagating Industrial Growth through Trade and Investment”.
Briefing journalists in Bulawayo yesterday, ZITF Company board chairperson, Ms Ruth Ncube, said a majority of exhibitors arrived over the long Easter holiday period and were putting final touches to their stands.
“With a few hours to go before the 60th edition of the ZITF, it’s now all systems go at the exhibition centre. In line with the 2019 theme, the five-day trade showcase will feature a packed programme of events aimed at engaging through dialogue, emerging business trends, opportunities and challenges facing business, and most critically the interventions required to enhance economic performance,” she said.
“Participation figures for the exhibition are quite pleasing. Our targeted 2019 available space was taken up at 100 percent. Further to that we availed five percent additional space (2 648 square metres) to accommodate the overflow. 532 direct local exhibitors have booked compared with 491 at the same time last year.”
Ms Ncube said the space being made available for sale rose from a low of 47 612 square metres in 2016 to a high of 57 732 square metres this year.
She pointed out that of the 532 direct local exhibitors, 16 percent were first timers displaying a wide range of products and services. These are drawn from among others; printing and packaging, tourism, education services and advocacy, media and advertising, and agriculture equipment.
In terms of geographical mix, 55 percent of confirmed local exhibitors were from Harare, 25 percent from Bulawayo, 15 percent (other towns) and five percent from the international sector. Foreign nations participating at this year’s ZITF include Belarus, which will be participating at the trade showcase for the first time, the United States of America which is making a return after a three-year hiatus, Botswana, Ethiopia, Japan, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Zambia, Namibia, Nigeria, South Africa and the United Arab Emirates among others.
Some of the major highlights of this year’s trade fair include the ZITF International Business Conference tomorrow, the Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries (CZI)/ZITF Buyer-Seller Platform Breakfast on Thursday as well as the Zimbabwe-Belarus Business Forum on the same day.
Ms Ncube said the ZITF International Business Conference is arguably the largest business meeting in the country with this year’s high-level symposium that will run under the theme, “Industrial Growth as an Anchor for Achieving Vision 2030,” expected to attract more than 800 delegates.
“In line with this, the programme will focus on addressing issues of investment, infrastructural gaps, competitiveness and value chain linkages as they relate to the realisation of vision 2030. The conference will feature distinguished speakers from Government, academia and the private sector.
“They include the Minister of Finance and Economic Development, Professor Mthuli Ncube, CZI president Mr Sifelani Jabangwe, ZimTrade chief executive officer Mr Allan Majuru as well as One-Stop Investment Services Centre chairman Dr Washington Mbizvo, among other prominent speakers,” she said.
Vice President Retired General Constantino Chiwenga will deliver the key note address at the event. Ms Ncube said continuing the industrialisation focus of the business exhibition, the CZI/ZITF Buyer-Seller Platform Breakfast will also present an opportunity for business-to-business engagement between industrialists and suppliers of production equipment and technologies.
It is hoped that the breakfast meeting will also address issues to do with access to trade and investment. Afrexim Bank regional chief operating officer Mr Humphrey Nwugo is expected to make a presentation on the available financing opportunities.
“Other speakers include Industry and Commerce Minister Mangaliso Ndlovu, Export Credit Guarantee Corporation head of operations Mr Andrew Mafukidze and the CZI Matabeleland chamber president Mr Joseph Gunda.
“A business delegation from Botswana will also be in attendance to discuss opportunities for the promotion of bilateral trade between Zimbabwe and Botswana. The event will be capped by business-to-business matchmaking meetings between local and international buyers and sellers of goods and services,” said Ms Ncube.
The 2019 ZITF will also seek to assist industry and commerce to harness the numerous opportunities being presented by the fourth industrial revolution through the Innovators Forum running from Thursday to Saturday.
“To round off the business days, the Ministry of Industry and Commerce in conjunction with the ZITF Company will host the Minister’s Reception and Celebration of ZITF @ 60 Cocktail on Thursday evening.
“In addition to the networking opportunities, the celebrations will honour organisations and personalities that have been part of ZITF over the 60 years,” Ms Ncube said.