Oliver Kazunga, Senior Business Reporter
THE 58th edition of the Zimbabwe International Trade Fair (ZITF) kicks off in Bulawayo today with local and foreign exhibitors expected to meet for high level deliberations focused on trade and the economy.
President Mugabe will lead top Government executives to the City of Kings this week where he will be joined by Namibian President Hage Geingob, who will officially open the prime trade showcase on Friday.
The five-day event is packed with a series of meetings, presentations and engagements between various stakeholders under the theme, “Harnessing Linkages for Industrial Development”.
Yesterday, Bulawayo was already a hive of activity as scores of exhibitors trooped in ahead of the event.
By last night, exhibitors were still flocking to the venue as some made a last minute rush to spruce up their stands. A majority of the exhibitors in Halls 4, 5 and 3 had finished their displays.
Some regular exhibitors such as the Zimbabwe Republic Police, the Zimbabwe National Army and Airforce, Ministry of Industry and Commerce, which is the host, had their colourful stands ready for the trade showcase. The business community has expressed readiness for this year’s event and said it is optimistic of making fruitful deals.
ZITF Company chairperson Mrs Ruth Ncube has reported that foreign participation at this year trade fair is encouraging with 14 countries confirming their presence. Among these are Botswana, China, Ethiopia, Germany, Indonesia, Iran, Japan, Kenya, South Africa, Turkey, Malawi and Mozambique.
Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries (CZI) vice president Mr Sifelani Jabangwe said industry captains expected this year’s trade fair to improve local manufacturers’ linkages with potential partners on the back of Statutory Instrument 64 of 2016.
“We hope to meet international raw material suppliers and also equipment suppliers that we will work with in terms of retooling as we focus on promoting the country’s industrial agenda,” he said.
In June 2016, the Government through the Ministry of Industry and Commerce promulgated SI64, which removes several goods from the Open General Import Licence as part of measures to control imports entering the country.
Industry and Commerce Minister Dr Mike Bimha clarified that listed products would only be imported when local companies are not able to meet demand at specific intervals.
As such Mr Jabangwe said this year’s trade fair creates an opportunity for local companies to meet and negotiate with international buyers in different economic sectors.
“We also look forward to meeting both inward and outbound business partners that we can work with to re-industrialise the country,” he added.
Economist, Dr Gift Mugano, said the ZITF was a platform for local companies to continuously engage with foreign investors to unlock fresh capital as well as investment opportunities through models such as joint ventures.
“This is a trade fair where in the past we have seen traditional exhibitors from countries such as China participating and such a trend provides an opportunity for continuous business engagement with foreign investors. Also first time exhibitors will be able to negotiate for business deals,” he said.
Zimbabwe National Chamber of Commerce chief executive officer Mr Christopher Mugaga said businesses looked forward to the trade fair to open floodgates of potential investment opportunities.
He said his organisation was upbeat about the exhibition space taken by exhibitors which was at 90 percent.
Highlights of the five-day event include the ZITF International Business Conference tomorrow. Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa will be the guest of honour at the crucial conference which will draw the presence of top domestic and foreign business executives and key stakeholders across the economic sector. There will also be a forum for original equipment manufacturers on Thursday held in conjunction with the Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries.
The trade fair will also run concurrently with sector-specific expos; A’sambeni Africa Business Tourism Expo, Ultimate Home, Pakprint and Scholastica.