The 58th edition of the Zimbabwe International Trade Fair (ZITF) begins in Bulawayo tomorrow with expectations that the five-day show will help attract more investment into the country as well as to enhance exports.
Scheduled to end on Saturday, the exposition at the Zimbabwe International Exhibition Centre (ZIEC) will be held under the theme, “Harnessing Linkages for Industrial Development.”
Highlights of this year’s edition include its official opening by Namibia President Hage Gottfried Geingob on Friday, the ZITF International Business Conference on Wednesday, and a golf challenge on Thursday and the opening of the ZIEC to the general public on Friday and Saturday. There will also be a number of entertainment activities including performances by some musical groups, the Coca Cola Four Minute Mile race, tug of war, police and military displays.
Running simultaneously with the ZITF is the Bulawayo Agricultural Show and some specialised fairs of the event — A’Sambeni Africa Business Tourism Expo and Scholastica.
Hundreds of business visitors are expected on the first two days of the expo which are designated exclusively for them to interact and strike trade and investment deals. By late last week, more than 90 percent of the available exhibition space or 43 900 square metres of the ZIEC had been taken up with more exhibitors expected to take up the small spaces that were still vacant.
Foreign exhibitors and visitors from Asia, Europe and Africa were already in the country by yesterday with some expected to arrive today in time for the beginning of business tomorrow. Namibia is likely to be strongly represented this year, particularly because President Geingob is the guest of honour. As usual, South Africa should be represented at the massive scale we have come to be accustomed to. The same applies to China.
Zimbabwe welcomes all exhibitors and visitors who are coming from abroad. We hope that they will find their participation at the ZITF worthwhile. The host city, Bulawayo welcomes them all, not forgetting local exhibitors and visitors who will be at the ZIEC to scout for trade and investment opportunities.
Indeed the national economy is making much progress from the depths that it dropped to between 2000 and 2008. It is expected to grow 3,7 percent this year, propelled by a successful agricultural season and the traditional big contribution of the mining sector. The Government has predicted that farmers will harvest up to 2,7 million tonnes of grain this year.
Industrial capacity utilisation has been improving in recent years. According to the Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries manufacturing firms operated at an average of 47 percent last year from 34 percent in 2015.
The statistics are encouraging, but we will not pretend that there are no challenges. They are there, but they are not insurmountable. To help address these, the Government is leading in improving the ease of doing business environment to attract more investment. This includes reducing the period an investor must wait before authorities approve their papers as well as issues related to taxation and insolvency.
There are countless opportunities that investors can take up. They can take some in the manufacturing sector and benefit from Statutory Instrument 64 of June 2016 that limits competition from imports. Through that law, the Government now allows a limited amount of imported products where there is demonstrable local capacity to produce them. This means that local manufacturers have the domestic market for themselves.
In addition to opportunities in manufacturing, the mining sector is always attractive. Investors can pour their money in gold, chrome, gas, tin, emerald, coal and platinum extraction. We know, however, that much focus on the mining sector is during yet another of ZITF’s specialised fairs —Mine Entra to be held in July — but the Ministry of Mines and Mining Development should be visible this week. Potential investors in the sector will, thus, be well served too.
Agriculture also presents a lot of opportunities not only in the actual growing of produce, but also in agro-processing. Zimbabwe’s economy is agro-based which means that any investment in that sector should be profitable.
Tourism and hospitality sectors are also waiting for investment in new facilities and products and investment in existing ones.
That is as far as investment goes. In terms of trade, our country is always seeking export markets. As the manufacturing, mining and agriculture industries continue to recover, soon there would be no enough domestic markets for their output. This means that markets have to be explored abroad.
But we suggest that, as the theme for this year’s ZITF says, any of the products that the country will export, should be finished products. These earn the economy more money as finished goods naturally fetch more than raw exports. When an economy exports finished goods, it means that many people would have been involved in processing them, hence more jobs. The finished goods that we want this economy to produce can only be produced when our industry develops from the primary stage.
Therefore, the ZITF theme for this year, “Harnessing Linkages for Industrial Development” is apt and consistent with the general thrust that our economy is taking, that of beneficiation and value addition for industrial development only occurs when you add value and beneficiate.
It is our hope that any trade and investment deals that will be struck this week during the ZITF would be followed through and come to fruition in the short term for our economy to develop further.