THIS year’s Zimbabwe International Trade Fair (ZITF) which ended last Saturday was eclipsed by an economic meltdown and nagging political uncertainty which resulted in reduced numbers of foreign
and local exhibitors at the annual trade showpiece.
Big industries and the corporate world stayed away from this year’s trade show en-masse while a lot of space inside the showground remained vacant.
A total of 16 countries, most of them represented by small companies, exhibited at the ZITF while local small and medium-scale enterprises (SMEs) filled the gap left by the corporate world.
Economist Eric Bloch said the trade fair benefited SMEs while it had no benefits to large scale and cross border trade.
“This year’s trade fair was very positive for the SMEs and informal traders while it did not have any benefits for the export market and established large-scale companies,” Bloch said.
African countries that participated at the trade fair are Botswana, Angola, Nigeria, Malawi, Mozambique, Mauritius, Kenya, Ghana, Egypt and South Africa.
The only overseas countries that showcased their products were Bangladesh, Austria, Iran and China.
Malaysia pulled out at the last minute, while stands for Malawi and a lot of South African companies were deserted.
Bloch said the absence of big investors at the ZITF diminished the status of the fair.
“The absence of European countries at the fair impacted on the status of the fair and really acted as a deterrent to local populists who would have hyped it if all those countries were present,” said Bloch.
Halls 2 and 2A, traditionally reserved for South Africa, remained locked while another hall usually reserved for the manufacturing and engineering sectors was used for hosting a business seminar.
Business leaders and exhibitors at the ZITF described this year’s showcase as just a ceremonial event with no tangible deals clinched.
Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries (CZI) chief executive officer, Farai Zizhou, told the Independent that he had no information on tangible deals clinched by members of his organisation.
“We do not have any information of any deals clinched by our members at the ZITF but the most important thing is that there is a need for an improvement of the whole trade fair,” Zizhou said.
He said there was a significant absence of the corporate world and hence the need for the ZITF to entice more visitors from outside the country in order to improve on business deals and encourage international trade.
“The ZITF needs to improve a lot of aspects and in the process entice more visitors from outside the country so as to improve participation by the corporate world and encourage international trade,” Zizhou said.
Exhibitors at the trade fair said they were affected by fuel shortages as some of their goods failed to reach the trade fair on time for business day exhibitions.
“We failed to secure enough fuel to transport our goods as a result of the fuel shortages and as a result our goods arrived in Bulawayo a few days after traders days and that is not good for business,” said one dejected exhibitor.