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Mugabe’s staying on betrays struggle

THE Zimbabwe International Trade Fair (ZITF) is one of the biggest exhibitions in the southern African region as it brings together businesses from across the board.

This year’s theme of the five-day fair which begins on April 20 is “Unlocking investment potential”.  Our reporter Fortune Dlamini-Moyo this week caught up with the ZITF general manager Daniel Chigaru to get an insight into this year’s exhibition. Below are excerpts of the interview.

Dlamini-Moyo: What is the thought behind this year’s theme?

Chigaru: With Zimbabwe having turned a new leaf at the inception of the government of national unity, there is a lot of hype about the turnaround of the economy. We are expecting a lot of investments into the country. Therefore, this year’s theme is about unlocking the potential that Zimbabwe has, as the ZITF is a forum that brings together diverse backgrounds, policy makers and foreigners. So we are saying to ourselves, “what’s holding us back as Zimbabwe?”

Dlamini-Moyo: What will make ZITF different this year?

Chigaru: There is no exhibition that can be the same as another. Last year’s exhibition was held at the onset of the economy’s turnaround and most companies were trading at zero capacity. This year, business has had more trading time and capacity is growing with the feeling that the economy is improving. Also, this year is different due to the political and social stability that has attracted interest from outside the country. There is more foreign participation this year as we aim to restore the international flair of the exhibition.

Dlamini-Moyo: There has been a general feeling that ZITF has over the years been used as a public relations forum for government. How are you planning to refocus so as to use the exhibition to attract investments, which is its core business?

Chigaru: The ZITF serves the government of the day, regardless of which government is in place, because it reflects what is happening in the country at that particular time. Exhibitions in an economy will always mirror what is happening at that time. One aspect that makes the exhibition into a political issue is the official opening ceremony, which is declared a state occasion and falls under the director of state occasions. This event then tends to overshadow the exhibition, but it is only one out of the five days, so our aim is still achieved.

Dlamini-Moyo: What can you say have been ZITF’s major achievements over the years?

Chigaru: Over the years, we have managed to keep the local, regional and international business community informed of what is happening in the country. ZITF is still renowned as a key exhibition in central-southern Africa as it is a gateway for businesses in the world and has spearheaded industrial development in Africa.

Dlamini-Moyo: There has been a proliferation of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) exhibiting at ZITF over the years, and yet ZITF is meant for big businesses. Can you comment on that?

Chigaru: Zimbabwe’s economy has indigenised with the informal sector becoming more formal. We are encouraging these small and upcoming businesses to be part of the exhibition, as a starting point to go to other exhibitions. Therefore, the Zimbabwean economy has evolved.

Dlamini-Moyo: How much space have you sold for this year’s edition?

Chigaru: Of the 55 000 square metres that we have, 94,4% of that space has been taken and we are positive that by the time the exhibition begins, all the space will be taken.

Dlamini-Moyo: How many exhibitors are you expecting?

Chigaru: 484 exhibitors have confirmed

Dlamini-Moyo: How many of them are foreign exhibitors?

Chigaru: There are 31 foreign exhibitors representing 14 countries which include Botswana, Ghana, India, Iran, Indonesia, Italy, China, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Tanzania, Turkey and Zambia. We are also expecting visitors from Germany, India, South Africa and the United Kingdom.

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