THE country’s premier business expo, the Zimbabwe International Trade Fair (ZITF), roars into life in Bulawayo today amid high hopes by local and international exhibitors.
Despite the false starts experienced earlier this year, occasioned by the spike in Covid-19 cases, which prompted authorities to tighten lockdown measures, the 61st edition of the ZITF is finally here and will be officially opened by President Mnangagwa this Thursday.
The successful hosting of the multi-sectoral expo is a milestone achievement for Zimbabwe, coming at a time when the country has just re-opened its economy and is gearing towards a post-Covid-19 recovery.
Eleven countries have confirmed their participation this year and these include Botswana, South Africa, Democratic Republic of Congo, Belarus, Indonesia, Kenya, Malawi, Mauritius, Namibia, Nigeria and Tanzania.
In addition, a total of 396 local direct exhibitors have registered their participation at the Trade Fair, which is being held under strict Covid-19 guidelines.
A number of high-level engagements have been planned including the calendar International Business Conference to be led by Vice-President Dr Constantino Chiwenga tomorrow, the ZITF Innovators’ Forum, the inaugural ZITF Diplomats Forum, the Bulawayo Agricultural Show, Scholastica Conference and the CZI/ZITF Indaba.
Our Bulawayo Bureau visited the Zimbabwe International Exhibition Centre yesterday, which was a hive of activity as scores of exhibitors trickled in with trucks loaded with exhibition material while others were putting final touches on their stands.
In separate interviews, the exhibitors said they were ready for the show and highly optimistic. The Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (Potraz) had finished erecting its stand in Hall 4.
“This show will help us to recalibrate and we will be able to put up a good show. For us in the ICT sector, I think the theme, ‘Showcasing the New Normal for Business and Industry: Realities and Opportunities,’ resonates very well with our sector as we are a key enabler for the new normal,” a company official, Mrs Sibonginkosi Muteyiwa, commented.
“Our stand designer is excellent and we’ve been pushing for them to finish this by end of day today. We are excited that the President has allowed this show to happen so that we can actually share ideas and see how we can move forward as a country to achieve Vision 2030.”
The ICT sector is an enabler towards attainment of Vision 2030, which seeks to transform the country into an upper middle-income economy.
“So, the trade fair is a great opportunity to meet with our consumers, partners and our potential investors in our country,” added Mrs Muteyiwa.
A representative of the Trade Kings Zimbabwe, who spoke on condition of anonymity said: “Whether things have happened the way they have because of the Covid-19 pandemic, business must go on.
“We want to see the wheels of industry turning, we are sort of defying the odds of what’s happening in the world and embracing business amidst challenges.
“We are hoping that during the trade fair our products will achieve what we are hoping for. They are 100 percent local products manufactured by Zimbabweans and we know that the local population loves them already, so we will finish this stand on time and the brand will do well.”
An official from Bulawayo’s Hillside Teachers College who preferred not to be named said they were optimistic that this year’s trade fair will reap the desired objectives as far as marketing the tertiary institution.
“Given that last year we did not have the trade fair, we are hopeful that the event will go a long way in marketing our institution,” said the official.
ZITF deputy chief executive officer, Ms Stella Nkomo, said all was set for the trade fair.
“All is now set for ZITF 2021, which kicks off tomorrow. Exhibitors are now putting final touches to their stands as they seek to creatively showcase their products and services,” she said.
“There is an aura of excitement after the cancellation of the show last year. This is because exhibitions such as ZITF are both a communication and promotion tool that is used to market products, services and brands.”
In this context, Ms Nkomo said many companies view the ZITF as an integral part of their marketing mix as they seek to position themselves favourably in the local and global market, and more so, in the face of Covid-19, which disrupted a lot of businesses.
“Many companies are looking forward to generating sales leads as well as building and promoting their brands as part of assuring customers that they are still standing,” she said.
Commenting on the number of participating companies, Ms Nkomo said the figures were still as they were as of the last update.
“But as per tradition, there is a lot of movement on the last day of the show. We are still receiving some new bookings and enquiries,” she explained.
“We hope by the end of the show we will have accounted for all direct and indirect exhibitors.
“We are confident that once again the exhibition will be fruitful as there is so much enthusiasm from both exhibitors and business visitors.”
The trade fair is being held under strict Covid-19 guidelines with persons under 18 not allowed to attend the event as part of efforts to curb the disease from spreading among children.
Organisers of the show have also enlisted the help of the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority and key stakeholders in communicating and enforcing health and safety protocols outside the exhibition centre.
The ZITF 2021 was this year postponed twice, in April and August due to the Covid-19 pandemic.