ZITF needs overhaul

 ZITF needs overhaul
Published: 01 May 2019
ECONOMIC analysts have called for the sub-division of the Zimbabwe International Trade Fair (ZITF) into sector-driven fairs as the business exhibition is struggling to attract big international corporations.

The southern African nation last week held its 60th edition of the ZITF in Bulawayo under the theme: Propagating Industrial Growth through Trade and Investment.

This year's edition of the annual ZITF event sought to get industry and commerce to explore and cement synergies in order to promote trade and investment.

Even though the show, according to Industry minister Nqobizitha Mangaliso Ndlovu, improved in terms of exhibiting quality products, attendance numbers and nation-building discussions, analysts say there was still need for improvement.

For instance, as was in the previous years, parastatals—as struggling as they were—dominated the show compared to manufacturers, but with no big international companies in attendance. Of note, was that a number of foreign countries were represented by their embassies, and not by private companies.

This is despite the fact that products on display by some of the local companies were imported.

"Today, the trade fair is a showcase for all the things we have to import. It is still an attractive site and an interesting place to visit, but it generates nothing like the pride it used to when we could all be proud of local achievements," veteran economist, John Robertson said.

"We used to watch fashion shows, with all the ladies wearing locally-designed and manufactured dresses made from locally-woven and printed fabrics. Competing shoe manufacturers had extensive displays of footwear made to such high standards that European buyers placed regular orders," he said.

"Different local factories also competed for customers wanting hi-fi sound equipment and amplifiers, radio receivers, public address systems, alarms and electronic sensors for the manufacturing and mining industries. If you find these on display in Bulawayo's ZITF today, they will all come from Japan or China."

Robertson said ZITF used to be tied in with the agricultural society and the farmers, ranchers, pig breeders, stud farms, dairy products manufacturers and poultry producers who would compete for a long list of trophies, with adjudicators from all over the world judging performances.

In the main arena, world-class animals were paraded to the delight of an appreciative public, which also enjoyed the equestrian events, the dressage and show jumping in particular, and mounted units of the police force also put on impressive horse-riding events.

But, today, all that has become a thing of the past.

Bulawayo-based economic analyst, Reginald Shoko said despite an improvement in participants at ZITF, the exhibition was becoming more of an annual ritual rather than a trading fair.
"It's failing to attract big international corporations. One will think it's time we divide and introduce sector-driven fairs as in the case of Mine Entra until our industry improves," Shoko said.

"The current set-up is not real making business sense. How many notable business deals were sealed in the past four or more trade fairs, and even the international business conference has not led to any meaningful policy transformation. There are also no mechanisms to enforce the agreed issues besides the reciting of speeches," he said.

Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries (CZI) Matabeleland chapter's out-going president Joseph Gunda, said there was need for organisers of the fair to bring in more foreign exhibitors.
"It's a mixed bag. We had a lot of local exhibitors and very little foreign exhibitors compared to last year. We had expected to have more foreign exhibitors, but nonetheless, the show was big and massive," Gunda said.

The fair this year attracted 14 countries and these included Belarus, Botswana, Germany, Ethiopia, Japan, Kenya, Namibia, Nigeria, Malawi, Mozambique, South Africa, UAE, USA and Zambia.
Belarus, which made its debut showcase, brought in eight companies.

"We wish the organisers could give local companies more priority and incentives so that they could participate at the show. We realised that the majority