Chinese exhibitors snub ZITF

CHINESE exhibitors — who have for years dominated the Zimbabwe International Trade Fair (ZITF) — this year largely snubbed the annual trade showcase, with a few companies from the Asian economic powerhouse participating.

By Nqobani Ndlovu

ZITF chairperson Bekithemba Nkomo
ZITF chairperson Bekithemba Nkomo

Instead, South Africa — Zimbabwe’s traditional biggest trading partner — is the biggest exhibitor this year with 32 companies from the country exhibiting, according to the ZITF chairperson, Bekithemba Nkomo.

Togolese President Faure Essozimna Gnassingbé will officially open the annual trade fair today. The event, which opened on Tuesday and ends tomorrow, is running under the theme; “Innovate, Integrate and Industrialise”, which is ironic as Zimbabwe is going through massive de-industrialisation.

Chinese companies have for years been the biggest exhibitors at the ZITF, for example, occupying as much as 500 square metres at the 2012 edition of the trade fair, the largest ever exhibition from the Far East nation.

Hall 2, which is traditionally dominated by Chinese companies, is closed this year due to the low numbers of exhibitors.

The few Chinese companies at the fair have taken up exhibition space which is smaller than that which has been taken by local universities.

The stayaway by Chinese companies is despite the fact that President Robert Mugabe’s regime has been pulling out all stops to attract Sino companies to invest in Zimbabwe under its myopic Look East Policy necessitated by Western isolation and restrictive measures or limited sanctions.

Mugabe now regards China as Zimbabwe’s all-weather friend after his fallout with the West at the turn of the millenium.

In the last five years, Zimbabwe has received more than US$1 billion in low-interest loans from China, which is Harare’s second largest trading partner after South Africa.

In August 2014, Mugabe and his Chinese counterpart XiJinping signed various deals worth billions of dollars, mostly focusing on infrastructure.

According to Zimbabwe Investment Authority (ZIA) statistics, the Asian giant remained Zimbabwe’s largest investor, accounting for 74% of the US$134 million in foreign direct investments recorded by Zimbabwe during the first five months of 2015.

In 2014 ZIA approved US$929 million worth of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI)projects of which 72% were from China.
Nkomo this week admitted there were relatively few Chinese companies at the ZITF compared to previous years, but argued ZITF was not interested in numbers, but quality.

“Our emphasis is on quality, we are happy with the quality of the exhibition and the quality of the products. We have noted an improvement in the quality of exhibition,” Nkomo told journalists.

Among some of the countries exhibiting at ZITF are Botswana, Cyprus, Ethiopia, Germany, Indonesia, Iran, Japan, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Poland, Russia, South Africa, Tanzania, Zambia and China.

Nkomo said that total bookings were at 45 683m2, which was 96% of space available for sale.

He said this year’s edition had attracted about 390 direct exhibitors, compared to the closing total of 387 last year. There are 32 direct foreign exhibitors at this year’s fair, the same as that of 2015.

Meanwhile, the foot-and-mouth outbreak forced organisers to reduce livestock related exhibition at the ZITF.

The Bulawayo Agricultural Show runs concurrently with the ZITF, but the Zimbabwe Independent observed only 60 herd of cattle were brought for the exhibition whereas in the past hundreds of cattle were showcased. A ban on pigs, sheep and goats is yet to be lifted owing to the foot-andmouth outbreak.